Preview: Improving Lakers look to rebound against Utah Jazz

On Sunday, the Lakers (8-30) host the Utah Jazz (16-20) at Staples Center.

The Jazz, fresh off their Saturday night win over the Miami Heat in Utah, will try to win their second in a row, while the Lakers attempt to stop a three-game losing streak.

D'Angelo Russell tried to play on Friday through an ankle injury, but only lasted roughly eight minutes.  Kobe Bryant (shoulder) and Russell are listed by the team as game-time decisions.

The Jazz have a long list of injuries, including Dante Exum (knee), who is out for the season, and Alec Burks (ankle), who could return near the All-Star break in February.

Derrick Favors (back) and Rodney Hood (ankle) may also be game-time decisions.

Key matchup

The Jazz are led by forward Gordon Hayward, who is scoring 18.7 points a game with 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

Hayward does a bit of everything both as a scorer, shooter (39% from behind the arc) and play-maker.  He's not a dominant defender, but he's smart and feisty.

The Lakers would start Bryant against Hayward.  If the Lakers All-Star sits, rookie Anthony Brown would get the nod.

Bryant is obviously the Lakers' big-time scorer.  Brown is a very promising defender, but he doesn't often look for his own shot.

If Hood is out, Chris Johnson may get the start at shooting guard against Lou Williams.

X-factor

Rudy Gobert is back from an ankle injury.  The center played 15 minutes off the bench in Utah's Thursday-night loss to the Utah Jazz.  He was back in with the starters on Saturday, scoring nine points with five rebounds and four blocked shots in 28.5 minutes.

When Gobert is at full strength, he's one of the best defensive big-men in the league.

The Lakers don't go to Roy Hibbert often for points, but Gobert's strength is contesting guards, driving into the paint.

Offensively, the Lakers have the veteran Williams coming off a career-high 44 points in the team's Friday-night loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Outlook

The Jazz have played well this season, but injuries have taken their toll.  The Lakers have three losses in a row, but two came down to the wire -- and the team previously won three-straight.

Look for the improving Lakers to get the victory at home on Sunday.

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

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