NBA: Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz head up tantalizing round of fixtures
There are some intriguing clashes to look forward to this week. They include Utah Jazz, who are on home court against the Los Angeles Lakers, with the latter desperate to arrest a run of three straight defeats. Milwaukee Bucks are on the road at the weekend against the high-flying Los Angeles Clippers. We will preview these games and provide the latest odds and injury news.
Lakers need to halt losing streak against Jazz
While the Lakers occupy the third spot in the Western Conference, they have seen their form slide of late. A 127-124 overtime loss to the Washington Wizards on Monday raised alarm bells. While LeBron James drained 31 points and posted 13 assists as well as nine rebounds, the 36-year-old played 43 minutes against the Wizards. Concerns have mounted over his playing time.
This month, James has already played at least 40 minutes or more in four games. Against the Wizards, he was 14 of 29 from the field and made just two of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc. Managing James’ schedule is key, especially as the play-offs come sharply into focus. However, James was quick to brush off suggestions that he needs more rest.
Jazz have to up the tempo against the Lakers
In their 132-110 win over Charlotte Hornets, the Jazz at times played some listless basketball before they kicked swiftly into gear during the fourth quarter and went on an incredible 26-2 run. More significantly, the Jazz finished with a franchise record of 28 three-pointers thanks to some devastating finishing from the likes of Joe Ingles (7-10 from three).
Lakers have to soldier on without Anthony Davis
The Lakers were dealt a telling blow this week. They learned that Anthony Davis will be out of action for up to four weeks due to a calf strain he suffered earlier this month against the Denver Nuggets. While there is no quick-fix solution for Davis, James and co will have to find a way to get things back on track quickly.
Ingles in the form of his career for the Jazz
This season, the Jazz have shown their abundant offensive and defensive qualities. But Ingles has dazzled, in particular. After hitting 21 points against the Hornets (all three-pointers), Ingles is now shooting at a career-high season average of 44.5%. It is no surprise to see Jazz lead the way in the Western Conference with a 25-6 record.
Boston Celtics searching for answers after New Orleans Pelicans collapse
There have been moments of brilliance from the Boston Celtics this season, but Sunday’s defeat against the New Orleans Pelicans was emblematic of their problems. Having been ahead by 24 points during the second half, the Celtics crumbled to a 120-115 defeat, taking their record to 15-15. Celtics coach Brad Stevens was blunt when admitting his franchise ‘have a lot of things to clean up’.
While Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have lit up the floor and combined to score 57 points against the Pelicans, there were some mistakes that are hard to legislate for. The rest of the team managed a meagre 58 points and shot 4-for-20 from beyond the arc, with Kemba Walker missing 11 of his 3-point attempts.
Meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers are going from strength to strength. Currently sitting fourth in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers have been inspired by Domantas Sabonis, who richly deserves another trip to the All-Star game on March 7. Sabonis has been the Pacers’ leading scorer this season (career-high 21.5 points) as well as second in the passing stats (career-high 5.7 assists).
Bucks need to tighten things up at the back against Clippers
Worryingly for the Bucks, they have been torn apart by some of the NBA’s top teams. Despite sitting third in the Eastern Conference, they rank 25th in terms of defensive ratings, which is rather alarming as they were sixth last term against top-15 offences. And Brook Lopez has been more heavy-footed with his defending recently.
Earlier this week the Clippers were edged out 112-108 by the Brooklyn Nets. While Paul George drained in 34 points in 33 minutes, he sat out the final few minutes of the game. Perhaps the Clippers are treading carefully with a player who has only recently returned from a toe injury. Without George, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue was forced to turn to Kawhi Leonard.