Wednesday night in the NBA will feature two Western Conference heavyweights going head-to-head. The Los Angeles Lakers (18-3, first in the West) continue their road trip against the Utah Jazz (12-9, sixth in West). The Lakers earned a big win at Denver Tuesday night against the Nuggets, while the Jazz lost Monday to the 76ers and are trying to get back in the win column.
Here is a preview for Wednesday night’s game in Salt Lake City, along with odds and a pick.
By The Numbers
We’ll start with the Lakers, who, along with the Bucks, have the league’s best record. Los Angeles is second in the NBA in field-goal percentage, shooting 48.1 percent from the field. However, thanks to lower marks in three-point and free-throw percentage, they’re just 13th in points per game with 111.9.
However, the Lakers have the league’s third-best defense, allowing 103.7 points per game. They’re also number one in blocks per game with 7.1 and seventh with 8.5 steals. Coach Frank Vogel has made sure to emphasize defense from the jump, and so far, it has paid off greatly.
The Jazz are very excited to return home following a 1-4 road trip. Utah is 16th in field-goal percentage at 45 percent but is fifth in three-point percentage at .373. However, the Jazz find themselves just 23rd in overall points per game with 106.1.
Just like in years past, coach Quin Snyder has overseen a tough defensive team in Utah, one that is eighth with 105.1 points allowed per game. The Jazz have done a good job of preventing points even though they are 25th in blocks with 4.4 and next-to-last in steals with 6.1. A big part of that is limiting second-chance points, as the Jazz are third in defensive rebounds.
Who To Watch
Every Lakers game is a must-watch due to LeBron James. In year 17, The King is having another great season, averaging 25.6 points and leading the league in assists with 10.8. Anthony Davis has also been a huge addition for the Lakers this year, averaging 26.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
Davis is coming off of a 25-point, 10-rebound game with exceptional defense Tuesday against Denver despite battling an illness. He is still feeling the effects of the illness, and as of now, his status for this game is up in the air.
The Jazz are led by Donovan Mitchell, as the third-year guard is in the top 15 in the NBA in points per game with 24.5. Utah also has one of the best defensive centers in the league in Rudy Gobert, who is averaging 14 points per game and is third in the league in rebounds with 13.7. If Davis sits, Gobert’s impact will be felt that much more throughout the game.
Both teams also have sixth men who are capable of shooting the basketball. Los Angeles’ Kyle Kuzma and Utah’s Joe Ingles are each having down years by their standards, with Kuzma averaging 10.9 points and Ingles averaging 7.3. But both are good shooters and are capable of taking over games when the stars are on the bench.
Odds And Pick
There are few instances where the league’s best team will be considered an underdog, but this is one of those instances. The Jazz are coming in at -2.5 against the Lakers, in a game that is projected to be the lowest-scoring contest on Wednesday night’s 10-game schedule.
A lot will depend on Davis’ health, but as it stands now, I like the Lakers. The Jazz are an impressive 8-1 at home, but the Lakers are also 9-1 on the road. Los Angeles can win with offense explosions or by grinding out games on defense, the latter of which what we’ll likely see in this one. Los Angeles’ ability to win regardless of opponent or situation, along with its depth and star power, has me picking the Lakers +2.5.