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Preview: Lakers at Utah Jazz

December 27, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • Jordan Hill drives to the basket during a preseason game against the Utah Jazz.
Jordan Hill drives to the basket during a preseason game against the Utah… (Chris Carlson / Associated…)

The Lakers (13-16) badly need a win to break their three-game losing streak.

On Friday night, they'll visit the Utah Jazz (8-23), a team that has won only three of 13 games at home.

The Lakers finally got a point guard back when Jordan Farmar returned on Christmas Day from a torn hamstring. It's been a challenge for the Lakers, who have been playing without guards Kobe Bryant (knee), Steve Nash (back), Steve Blake (elbow) and, until Wednesday, Farmar.

Complicating matters, the Lakers will have to play without power forward Pau Gasol, who is sidelined with an infection of his upper respiratory tract.  

Key matchup

Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward is averaging a team high 16.4 points a game. He's also a skilled playmaker at 4.7 assists a game.

Utah is not an especially strong shooting team at 43% from the field. Hayward has struggled to be efficient, hitting only 39.7% of his shots from the field and 27.4% from three-point range.

The Lakers can put either Jodie Meeks or Wesley Johnson on Hayward. Meeks doesn't have the same length or athleticism as Johnson, but he gives a strong effort defensively.

Hayward's shooting woes likely stem from roster issues as Utah goes through a rebuilding process, but he's a talented, well-rounded player who is capable of putting up serious numbers.

X-factor

With Gasol out of the lineup, Coach Mike D'Antoni will probably turn to Chris Kaman.

Utah has recently moved to a smaller lineup with Derrick Favors at center and Marvin Williams at power forward.

Favors is a capable rebounder at 9.0 a game. The Georgia Tech product is also averaging 13.5 points a game.

D'Antoni has recently used Shawne Williams as the team's starting four, but Jordan Hill is always a possibility, in this case alongside Kaman.

Though Kaman hasn't found a steady role for D'Antoni this season, a big game against the Jazz would help his situation as well as that of the team.

Outlook

Utah has won two of its last four games, including road wins in Orlando and Charlotte.

After missing the start of the season with a finger injury, Trey Burke has 19 games under his belt, averaging 13.5 points a game with 4.9 assists.

Utah has struggled this season but so have the Lakers.

Farmar was especially rusty in his return, with the Lakers losing to the Miami Heat in his first game back since the Dec. 1 injury.

If the Lakers can win their next four games, all against struggling teams -- Utah twice, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks -- they'll be back above .500 only three days into the new year.

Beating the Jazz both times won't be easy, especially on Friday night in Utah without Gasol.

ALSO:

Pau Gasol to miss Lakers' trip to Utah

Rookie forward Ryan Kelly earns role in Lakers' rotation

Mike D'Antoni says he got 'a bunch of coal' for Christmas

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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