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Lakers vs. Jazz: 3 Big Questions (10/10/17)
The Lakers return to STAPLES Center after picking up their first preseason win in Las Vegas.
As Kyle Kuzma, Brook Lopez and co. prepare for the Utah Jazz, here are three questions to keep in mind.
Who starts at the four?
With point guard Lonzo Ball out due to a sprained ankle, it’s safe to predict that Tyler Ennis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram and Brook Lopez will return to the starting five.
The only gap is at power forward, where there are three candidates.
Julius Randle started the majority of last season, as well as preseason’s first three contests. However, he came off the bench in Sunday’s win over Sacramento and excelled, putting up 17 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Larry Nance Jr. started against the Kings after impressing coach Luke Walton during training camp. Nance’s preseason numbers have been pedestrian, but Walton likes how he competes on defense and makes plays that don’t necessarily show up in the box score.
Then there’s Kyle Kuzma, who has emerged as a universal fan favorite this preseason. The 27th-overall pick has far outperformed his draft position by averaging 19.5 points — fifth-most in the NBA — on a blistering 62.0 percent clip.
Walton said that he has debated giving Kuzma a chance to start this preseason, though he also does like the energy and buckets that he produces in the second unit.
Where does the offense come from?
The easy answer here is Kuzma, who — after Sacramento tied the game with five minutes left — either scored or assisted on all of the final five Lakers baskets to end Sunday’s win.
Kuzma has shown a wealth of talent at the four position, backing down smaller defenders, blowing past larger ones and staying active off the ball by cutting to the hoop and spotting up on the perimeter. This has led to his ridiculous 25-of-30 mark from inside the arc.
Other than Kuzma and Randle, the biggest name that stands out is Brook Lopez, who averaged more than 20 points for the Brooklyn Nets last season.
After dealing with back spasms early in camp, Lopez debuted against the Kings and immediately got to work by dropping 10 points in the first quarter alone.
He offered a sample platter of his skill set, posting up on the left block for a couple buckets and swishing a pair of 3-pointers. The 10-year veteran expects to get a bit more playing time against Utah after appearing for only 15 minutes on Sunday.
Can B.I. break out?
It has been a frustrating preseason for Brandon Ingram, who said that “offensively it’s not going so well at all” at Monday’s practice.
Indeed, Ingram has averaged only 8.0 points on 26.7 percent shooting. Even his greatest strength from last year — scoring at the rim — has been a struggle, as he’s shot just 5-of-14 inside the paint.
Walton felt that Ingram has been trying too hard to prove himself, while Lakers President Magic Johnson advised that the 20-year-old simply relax and have fun on the court.
Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
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