Time for Lakers to Go Small Against Jazz and Force Rudy Gobert to Bench

Without Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder, the Lakers are going to have change things up and go super small on offense and defense and play Rudy Gobert off the floor to have a chance to upset the Utah Jazz tonight.

It may be a long shot but going small is the best chance the Lakers have to neutralize Gobert and the Jazz’ second ranked defense and match up with the the cadre of lethal 3-point shooters that drive their top ranked offense. The best starting lineup for the Lakers against the Jazz tonight would be Talen Horton-Tucker and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at guards, LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma at forwards, and Markieff Morris at small ball center.

Offensively, the need to spread the floor with 5-out sets and hit a high volume of threes to keep pace with the Jazz. They need five players who can make catch-and-shoot threes and attack the paint for drive-and-kick shots. They need to run to get easy baskets and be able to attack the paint and rim when Gobert is drawn out of the paint, which is why Morris should start.

Defensively, the Lakers’ lineups need to have the speed and athleticism to chase shooters off the 3-point line but still recover to rotate and help when the ball is moved or opposing players drive into the paint or attack the rim. That means five mobile athletic players who can chase shooters off the 3-point line and rotate quickly when the ball moves to prevent wide open shots, which is why I would start Morris at center instead of Gasol.

The Jazz have the best 3-point differential in the league, winning the 3-ball battle by 18 points per game, meaning they make 17 of 42 threes while holding opponents to 11 of 31 threes, a differential of 6 threes per game. The key to beating the Jazz is spreading the floor, stretching the defense, and outscoring the Jazz from deep to force Gobert out of the paint to open up lanes for LeBron and THT to attack the rim and win points in the paint.

The Lakers will need to shoot 45 threes again tonight and hit 40% of them to pull off a win. Hitting a hit volume of threes is going to be critical as it’s the only way to draw Rudy Gobert out of the paint or play him off the court. The Lakers almost want to lure the Jazz to give the ball to Gobert in the paint rather than rely on their league best 3-point shooting offense. Any time the Lakers get the Jazz to settle for 2 rather than 3 points will be a win.

Despite Gobert, the Jazz allow 48.3 points in the paint, which is 20th in the league, while only scoring 43.8 points in the paint. If the Lakers can keep Gobert out of the paint or play him off the floor, they can dominate inside. The thing about the Jazz is they are not unbeatable if you can get lure or force them to play outside their comfort zone. That’s not an easy thing to do and will require great shooting on offense and discipline on defense.

So while the Jazz are 9 point favorites, there’s a path to a Lakers upset victory tonight. Go super small on offense and defense, outscore the Jazz from deep, and then finish them off by attacking the paint and the rim.

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