Preview: Lakers vs. Utah Jazz

Lakers look to end three-game skid against Utah Jazz at home

The Lakers (17-49) beat the Jazz in Utah in late February.  On Thursday, they'll host the Jazz (30-37) at Staples Center.

Utah has evolved into one of the better defensive teams in the league, holding teams to a league-best 95.0 points a game.

The Jazz fell at home on Wednesday night to the Washington Wizards (40-28), playing their second game on back-to-back nights.

The Lakers have lost three straight but have competed in recent games.  They'll play without Nick Young (knee) -- along with Ronnie Price (elbow), Kobe Bryant (shoulder), Julius Randle (knee) and Steve Nash (back), all done for the season.

Utah's Alec Burks (shoulder) is out for the season, while Elijah Millsap is questionable with a concussion.

Key matchup

Rudy Gobert has emerged as a dominant defender at the center position.

On the season he's averaging just 7.6 points and 8.9 rebounds. He's shooting 61.4% from the field.

More recently, through nine games in March, Gobert is at 10.6 points, 17.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks a night.

The Lakers are going to need to hit some jump shots on Thursday, because Gobert is a force at the basket.

Jordan Hill, Tarik Black, Ed Davis, Carlos Boozer and possibly Robert Sacre need to challenge Gobert on both sides of the ball.

X-factor

Gordon Hayward is Utah's leading scorer at 197 points a game.

He's shooting 45.4% from the field, 37.6% from three-point range and 80.6% from the line, while dishing 4.2 assists a game.

The Jazz rely on Derrick Favor for their inside scoring, but the team can struggle from the outside and for points in general.

The Lakers need strong shooting nights from Jeremy Lin, Jordan Clarkson, Wayne Ellington, Wesley Johnson, Boozer and Hill.

Outlook

The Lakers have been competitive of late, although rarely enough to win games.

They may be able to beat the Jazz, but Utah's ability to defend the basket should prove to be too big of an obstacle for the Lakers.

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

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