Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives the baseline on Hasheem Thabeet #34 of the Oklahoma City Thunder December 7, 2012 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Oklahoma City defeated Los Angeles 114-108
Neither Pau Gasol nor Steve Nash will play for the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night against the Utah Jazz. However, Coach Mike D’Antoni sparked a minor media sensation at Sunday morning’s shootaround by saying it is “possible” Nash will play on the upcoming four-game road trip.
On the upcoming trip, the Lakers hit the east coast for four games in six days. However, before the Lakers can look ahead, they must take care of business against a Utah Jazz team that enters Staples Center on a two game winning streak.
The Lakers lost to the Jazz earlier this season in Mike Brown’s last game in charge (see “Kobe Death Stare”). The Lakers came into that game at 1-3, two games under .500. Over a month later, the Lakers come into Sunday’s contest at exactly the same point—two games under .500.
Last time against the Jazz, the Lakers shot a miserable 33.8 percent from the field and 4-23 from behind the arc. The Lakers even went cold from the free throw line, missing 14 foul shots on the night. Apart from Kobe Bryant’s 29 points on 7-17 shooting and 15-17 from the charity stripe, the Lakers played a horrible game and struggled to 86 points.
Although the Lakers have made some strides forward, the Lakers still continue to struggle with turnovers and balanced scoring. Bryant is still leading the team in scoring, but the emergence of Chris Duhon at point guard has slightly lightened the pressure on Bryant’s ball-handling responsibilities.
Instead, Kobe has resumed scoring duties. Over his past four games, Kobe averaged 34.3 points per game on 47.5 percent from the field. On the season, Kobe is up to 28.4 points per game after dropping in another 35 points in the loss to the Thunder. Then again, scoring was never much of a problem for Kobe.
One problem that refuses to go away is turnovers. Kobe committed 5 turnovers in Friday’s loss and is averaging 3.9 turnovers per game on the season. Last time the Lakers met the Jazz, Kobe had 6 turnovers.
Dwight Howard, the other healthy Lakers superstar, has also issues with keeping hold of the basketball. Howard is prone to being stripped and had 6 of the Lakers’ 17 turnovers against Oklahoma City on Friday night. Howard is averaging over 3 turnovers per game, and he had 5 turnovers against the Jazz last time these teams met.
With Nash out, the Lakers have been unable to consistently take care of the basketball this season, and that has contributed greatly to the inconsistency this team has displayed over the first 20 games of the season. Entering Sunday’s game, the Lakers are 29th in the league in turnovers per game—only Houston is worse than Los Angeles.
…in short, Steve Nash can’t get back soon enough.