Preview: Lakers at Utah Jazz

The Lakers (25-55) play arguably their most important game of the season on Monday night, visiting the also-lottery-bound Utah Jazz (24-56).

Measured by futility, both teams are well-positioned for the 2014 NBA draft lottery. The Jazz are currently the fourth-worst team in the league, but another win would push them into a three-way tie in the win column with the Boston Celtics and Lakers.

While each team would have an equal 9% chance at the top pick in the NBA draft, the league would flip coins to determine the order of each franchise -- should they not win the lottery.

A win would likely drop the Lakers to sixth in the lottery, behind the Jazz at four and Celtics at five. A loss could help the Lakers overtake the fourth position with a lucky flip of the coin, although that assumes the three teams lose their 82nd games.

The Lakers finish up on Wednesday in San Antonio against the first-place Spurs (62-18).

Helping their cause, the Lakers will play without Pau Gasol (vertigo), Chris Kaman (calf), Kobe Bryant (knee), Xavier Henry (knee, wrist), Steve Nash (back) and Kent Bazemore (foot).

The Jazz have missed Marvin Williams (knee) of late.

Key matchup

Derrick Favors is finishing a strong season, averaging 13.2 points on 51.9% shooting, along with 8.7 rebounds and 1.45 blocks a game.

With Williams out, the Jazz have been playing big with Enes Kanter at center.

The Lakers will counter with Jordan Hill and Ryan Kelly, although Robert Sacre may be needed for a bigger role if Kelly has trouble with Favors.

Hill has averaged 15.7 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks through six games in April.

Sacre is probably the best defender of the three, while Kelly offers more of an offensive look as a shooter and scorer.


Dealing with Utah's leading scorer Gordon Hayward can be difficult. The young guard/forward is averaging 16.1 points and 5.2 assists a game.

Guard Alec Burks has emerged as a steady player for the Jazz. On Feb. 11, Burks scored 24 against the Lakers in just 29 1/2 minutes.

Jodie Meeks has grown as a defender, starting 68 games for the Lakers this season. He may be tasked with guarding both Hayward and Burks throughout the game.

Offensively, Meeks is the Lakers' third-leading scorer at 15.6 points a night.


The coaches and players may play to win -- but both teams are better off with the loss.


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Email Eric Pincus at and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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