Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Preview, Prediction and Analysis

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Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Preview, Prediction and Analysis
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Time: Sunday, December 9 at 9:30 P.M. ET

TV: TWC SportsNet

Records: Utah Jazz (10-9) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (9-11)

Betting Lines: Not Available as of Saturday, December 8th at 3:36 p.m. ET

Injuries: Steve Nash, LAL, Leg Fracture; Pau Gasol, LAL, Knee Tendinitis; Derrick Favors, Plantar Fasciitis; Al Jefferson, Back Spasms

 

Thus far in 2012-13, the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz have followed different paths to similar success. With L.A. at 9-11 and under the guidance of their second head coach, Utah is 10-9 with a high-powered offense.

As Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol underwhelm, Utah's interior depth continues to thrive.

As L.A. looks to dominate offensively, it is Utah that has six players averaging double-figure scoring. Four of those are perimeter players, which proves how far Utah has come.

So will it be a continuation of Utah's progression? Or the end to L.A.'s woes? 

Here's how it'll all play out.

 

Key Storyline: The Mike Brown Test

The last time the Utah Jazz played the Los Angeles Lakers, they put an end to the Mike Brown era with a 95-86 victory. With Mike D'Antoni is sitting at 4-6 with the Lakers, could Utah put an end to his tenure as well?

Chances are, D'Antoni will keep his job. With that being said, the Jazz will provide a measuring stick to how far the Lakers have actually progressed.

Even as Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are sidelined by injury, the Lakers should win this game. They've made the transition to Mike D'Antoni because they believe in his ability to lead them to an NBA championship.

If he can't defeat the team that ended Brown, will the Lakers display as much patience with D'Antoni?

 

Al Jefferson and the Utah Jazz won their first battle with L.A. due to their aggression.

Key Matchup: Al Jefferson vs. Dwight Howard

During their first meeting of the season, Dwight Howard and Al Jefferson had quite the memorable battle. Howard finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Jefferson posted 18 points and 10 boards.

Chances are, we're going to see more of the same on December 9.

The key to this matchup will be how aggressive Howard decides he's going to play. Despite his strong numbers, he played a very weak game against the Jazz.

Even as he shot 7-of-11 from the floor, D-12 refused to go up with more shot attempts. Even efficiency couldn't make the big man push on offense.

What Jefferson did an excellent job of was fighting Howard in the post, getting his hand in to jar the ball loose. This led to D-12's five turnovers on the day.

On the offensive end, Jefferson's solid numbers came by virtue of his aggression. With 18 points on 8-of-18 shooting, Jefferson set the tone for Utah as an all-around unit.

Should he do so again, the Jazz's perimeter players will continue to create terror for the opposition.

 

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

X-Factor: Randy Foye, Utah Jazz

When the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz first met on November 7, Randy Foye converted five three-point attempts and scored 17 points. This paced the Jazz to a 95-86 victory, with four of those three-pointers coming during the fourth quarter.

Should Foye do this again, we may just witness the same result.

Foye has always been a lethal jump shooter with three-point range. The issue for him has been finding consistency on a game-by-game basis, which is what he appears to have done in 2012-13.

Foye is shooting 44.7 percent from beyond the arc with an average of 2.4 three-point field goals made per game.

Foye is as dangerous as any shooting guard in the game when he's found a rhythm. That's why he's topped 15 points in six separate games.

If Kobe Bryant and company can slow him down, they'll win this game. If they can't, they'll be in for a long night.

 

Depth Charts

Utah Jazz depth chart via ESPN.com.

 

Los Angeles Lakers depth chart via ESPN.com.

 

Prediction

Entering this game, the Utah Jazz have reason for confidence. They defeated the Los Angeles Lakers by a score of 95-86 on November 7, thus ending Mike Brown's tenure with the team.

Unfortunately, we're not playing in Salt Lake City. This one is going to be played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Considering the Jazz are 3-9 on the road, we know who has the advantage.

Since scoring just 77 points against the Indiana Pacers on November 27, the Lakers have scored at least 100 in five consecutive games. With the Jazz ranking 19th in scoring defense, that shouldn't change.

What will change, however, is the Lakers' defensive intensity.

Who is going to win?

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Mo Williams and Randy Foye will throw up the three-ball for the Jazz, with Jodie Meeks serving as the counter from L.A. With Howard and Jordan Hill on the interior, however, physicality will be at a premium

Even still, the key to this one will be Utah's road woes.

Not only are they 3-9, but they're also averaging 96.4 points scored and 104.3 points allowed when away from home. Horrendous doesn't do this team justice.

Kobe Bryant will come out firing, Howard will be more aggressive and Meeks will step up with his shooting. It will be a tough victory, but a win nonetheless.

One that the Lakers desperately need.

Los Angeles Lakers 114, Utah Jazz 101

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