One night after winning at Denver, the Los Angeles Lakers will find themselves in another building that poses its own high-level challenges when they meet the Utah Jazz on Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
The Lakers will take an 18-3 overall record to Utah, where the Jazz have fashioned an 8-1 mark, including victories over the Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Lakers have won each of their past nine road games. Their lone “road” defeat came against the Los Angeles Clippers in the season opener, and that hardly counts as an away game since the teams share a building.
The bigger challenge for Wednesday is the struggle the Lakers went through just to defeat the Nuggets 105-96. They relinquished a double-digit halftime lead in the early moments of the second half before finally holding off Denver the rest of the way.
Los Angeles was coming off a 114-100 home defeat to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.
“Our whole thing is that we don’t want to lose two in a row ever,” said Lakers forward Anthony Davis, who matched LeBron James with 25 points against the Nuggets. “You want to make sure that we correct everything that we did poorly against (the Mavericks), especially rebounding.”
Davis contributed greatly Tuesday despite an illness that led him to receive intravenous fluids at halftime. His status for Wednesday was unclear.
Dallas had a 51-45 rebounding advantage on the Lakers on Sunday, while Los Angeles turned that around with a 56-35 edge against the Nuggets on Tuesday. It was a season high in rebounds for the Lakers.
Just how much energy the Lakers will have left on Wednesday is the question. They played Denver at 5,280 feet, while Salt Lake City is only slightly lower at 4,226 feet.
Davis and James not only scored the same amount of points Tuesday, but they each played 37 minutes. Nobody else on the team played more than 32.
Perhaps the Lakers can look to Kyle Kuzma for a breakout game on Wednesday, not only because he is a spry 24-year old but also because he played his college basketball at Utah. Kuzma, though, has struggled to fit in on offense, scoring just 7.5 points per game over an eight-game stretch, including his six points against the Nuggets.
As good as the Jazz have been at home this season, they enter play Wednesday coming off a 1-4 road swing in which they played four games against Eastern Conference teams.
The only team the Jazz defeated on the trip was their lone Western Conference opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies. The trip concluded with a 103-94 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday in a game the Jazz trailed by 24 points in the third quarter.
“We’ve got to play better,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “There are things we can do better, and we’ll keep doing what we can do, controlling the things we can control, and we’re going to improve.”
Leading scorer Donovan Mitchell is averaging 24.5 points per game, but that was down to 20 per game on the trip. New point guard Mike Conley is shooting just 36.9 percent on the season and was even worse on the trip at 32.1 percent. He also left the Monday game with a hamstring injury and is day-to-day.
While the Lakers showed a dedication to rebounding on Tuesday, they now have to contend with Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who is third in the NBA at 13.7 rebounds per game.
–Field Level Media