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Pre-Season Preview: Jazz vs. Lakers (Anaheim, CA)

0-3? So what?

I get that some Laker fans just don’t like seeing the Lakers lose (since I’m constantly around Laker fans nearly everywhere I go). Neither do I. But let’s remember that this is PRE-SEASON. As in, losses don’t count and neither do wins.

Last Saturday, the Lakers got to see the Utah Jazz (2-1) for the first time this year but that elusive “W” is still nowhere to be found. However, the starting unit, especially Metta World Peace, continue to show that they’re ready for the season. Well, at least offensively.

As a team, the purple and gold are still having a tough time grasping the importance of transitioning back on defense. The Lakers have to realize that with their size in the paint and aging backcourt, teams not named Celtics or Spurs will use speed and quickness as their main weapon against them. Considering that type of strategy has worked well for their opponents in the past, the Lakers better improve in this department as soon as possible.

In theory, the presence of Dwight Howard should alleviate their halfcourt defense and defensive rebounding immensely. However, that kind of thinking teeters between dangerous and foolish. Remember, Howard’s career fouls-per-game average is 3.47, which means he’ll likely be sitting on the bench at times when the team needs him on the floor more often than not should the Lakers decide to rely on his shot-blocking as their answer for defense. In any angle, that’s screaming “not gonna happen” if you think this team can get passed the opening round let alone the NBA Finals.

It’s easy to overlook their defense with a roster that can do unlimited damage on the offensive end. But as history suggests, the team that plays defense is usually the one holding the trophy in the end. Add to the fact that the reserves have yet to impress as a unit on both ends of the court, the Lakers absolutely has zero reasons not to focus on D.

Hopefully, they’ll start doing that against the Jazz tonight.

Matchup of the Game

Marvin Williams vs. Metta World Peace: Williams may have finally found a home in Utah after feeling under-used and unappreciated in Atlanta and it showed last Saturday. He’s a career 11.5 points per game in general and 6.5 points per game against the Lakers but put up 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting. On the flip side, he couldn’t stop Metta from doing damage on offense as well (not that he’s capable even on his best days). But Metta’s perimeter defense will be one of the keys for a Lakers success this season. It wouldn’t hurt to see him stepping it up on that end of the floor tonight knowing that he allowed Williams to have a birthday bash on offense last time.

Watch Out For

JAZZ: Enes Kanter – The 2nd-year man out of Kentucky provided a huge punch out of the Jazz bench with 14 points and 14 rebounds against L.A. So far, he’s looking like the player Utah had hoped for after drafting him as the 3rd overall pick in 2011. We’ll see if he carries over his performance last Saturday tonight.

LAKERS: Robert Sacre – The Lakers probably didn’t expect much out of the 60th overall pick this past summer when training camp opened. But the former Bulldog has taken advantage of every minute he’s been given in place of Howard and the injured Jordan Hill. After averaging 7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game the previous 2 exhibition games, Sacre posted 9 points, 10 boards and 3 swats against Utah last Saturday. He’s gotten a ton of praises from Mitch Kupchak all the way down to his teammates for his hard work and the energy he brings to the team. Look for him to continue to improve his game.

Keys to the Game

> Team Defense: This shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s been a nagging reason for the past 3 losses so I’m guessing it will be again if the Lakers drop their 4th tonight. But defense is all about attitude and commitment regardless of the offensive system. Right now, not enough players are showing any real effort.

> Pau Gasol: Although he played a fairly solid game defensively last time, he has to involve himself more around the glass and on offense. Zero assists and 4 boards are embarassing for a player as well-rounded as he is regardless if it’s pre-season or not. It’s most likely that Gasol is saving himself physically for the season, but 8 games of playing in mid-gear are enough to get used to mentally.

> Backup Backcourt: The Lakers have 4 able bodies to play the point guard position coming off the bench but none of them don’t seem to want the job at all. Steve Blake is supposed to be that guy but 2 points and 4 assists the last 3 games combined is garbage any way you look at it. Same goes with Chris Duhon, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. All 3 aren’t pushing themselves enough to even earn a spot on the roster. It’s hard to win games when a team only has 1 point guard willing to play.

Game Info

Tonight vs. Utah Jazz
Honda Center in Anaheim, CA
Tip-off at 7:00 p.m.

TV: TWC Sports Networks
Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

Injuries

JAZZ: None

LAKERS: Earl Clark (left groin), Jordan Hill (herniated disc) and Dwight Howard (back).

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