Lakers-Jazz Game Day
(Photo By: Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

Lakers at Jazz: 3 Things to Know (3/27/19)

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Here is what you need to know before the Lakers visit the high altitude in Utah.

1) Lakers will have to do it without their leader
In the interest of load management, LeBron James will sit out this game, giving the Lakers an additional challenge in this already difficult matchup.

It’s not exactly breaking news to say that it’s important to have a player among the NBA’s top four in both scoring and assists, but James’ absence is doubly crucial considering the rash of injuries that has hit the Lakers.

LeBron is currently on a streak of three straight double-doubles, and while his shooting has taken a dip during this stretch (41.8 percent), his passing has been otherworldly (13.0 assists per game). James’ timing with his teammates has been especially impressive during this recent run, as testified by Wizards coach Scott Brooks.

“He reads the defense as well as anybody in the history of the game [in terms of] how he sees the play develop,” Brooks said. “If you make a slight mistake, he will counter that with a great laser-like pass.”

2) The vets are stepping up
With most of the Lakers’ young core — Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball — sidelined by injuries, the team’s veterans have recently picked up their production.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the team in scoring against Washington, dropping 29 points while canning six 3-pointers. A week removed from his 35-point outburst, KCP did an excellent job of executing set plays, while also scrounging some improvised buckets by getting out in transition.

Meanwhile, like LeBron, Rajon Rondo busied himself by setting up teammates with open looks. The point guard dropped 10 assists on a night when the Lakers tied their season-high with 37.

But nobody has enjoyed this three-game span more than JaVale McGee, who has been a workhorse on both sides of the court, averaging 23.3 points on 82.1 percent shooting (32-of-39), with 16.0 rebounds and 5.0 blocks.

Still, the moment of Tuesday night — and perhaps the season — came from Lance Stephenson, whose crossover combination sent Jeff Green into a tailspin and the Lakers’ bench into a frenzy.

3) Utah is playing at an elite level
No team has been more dominant over recent weeks than the Jazz, who have won seven of their last eight games — with a whopping 19.5 average margin of victory.

They have bulldozed on both sides of the ball during this two-week stretch, ranking first in the NBA in defensive rating (99.3) and second in offensive rating (118.4).

Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert has been one of the games great deterrents at the rim, while placing among the league’s top five in rebounds, blocks and double-doubles. Coming off a season-high 27 points against Phoenix, Gobert also leads the NBA in field goal percentage (66.6), which is hardly surprising considering his 275 dunks this season are the most by any player in 21 years of recorded history.

Meanwhile, Donovan Mitchell continues to impress in his sophomore season, already ascending among the NBA’s best slashers and averaging the third-most points (23.4) of any shooting guard.

Injury Report
Reggie Bullock (right plantar fasciitis) Mike Muscala (tibialis posterior tendinitis) are questionable. LeBron James (load management/groin), Tyson Chandler (flu), Josh Hart (right knee tendinitis), Brandon Ingram (thoracic outlet decompression, right arm) and Lonzo Ball (left ankle sprain) are out.
Jazz: Dante Exum (partially torn patellar tendon, right knee) is out. Grayson Allen, Naz Mitrou-Long, Tyler Cavanaugh and Tony Bradley are on G League assignment.

Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet in L.A. ESPN nationally
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Gold Icon
Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena — Salt Lake City, Utah


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