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Battle of the two best defensive teams, while LeBron James loses the ninth consecutive game


Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are in Salt Lake City to face Donavan Mitchell and one of the best defenders in the NBA while playing the Utah Jazz.

The game should be a defensive battle, as both teams are in the top five in defensive qualification in their last 10 games. However, the Lakers are among the last five in offensive qualification in that same period.

This marks the ninth lost game of LeBron James, which is the longest absence in his entire career. The Lakers are 3-5 without him until now, having achieved consecutive victories.

Without James, they should see a good continuous play by Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Ingram and Ball are coming out of two big games following criticism from head coach Luke Walton, while Kuzma is coming off a Detroit Pistons victory in which he scored 41 points in just three quarters.

In defense, the Lakers should focus on the duo of Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Mitchell is averaging 20.7 points per game in his second season in the NBA, while Gobert currently leads the NBA field goal percentage.

However, the Jazz will be very short against the Lakers. Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha, Tony Bradley, Raul Neto and Grayson Allen will leave or are expected to miss Friday's contest.

As of the last game, the Jazz are only running a rotation of eight men, which means that the Lakers will have to use their depth to their advantage. Fortunately, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has played excellent basketball lately. Caldwell-Pope is averaging 16.2 points per game in his last six contests.

The Jazz has been one of the best defensive teams in the league this season. But recently, they have also found their way into the offensive. Even with injuries, the Lakers must play a stellar defensive game if they want to win.

And while it may be a bit too early to call this a mandatory victory, the Lakers are currently in eighth place in the conference, only two games ahead of the Jazz in ninth place.

Los Angeles Lakers (23-19) vs. Utah Jazz (21-21)

7:00 PM. PT, January 11, 2019
Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
TV: ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN) / 1330 KWKW (Spanish)

Projected starting line for the Lakers:

PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Josh Hart
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: JaVale McGee

Key reserves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Ivica Zubac

Started jazz line:

PG: Donavan Mitchell
SG: Kyle Korver
SF: Joe Ingles
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Rudy Gobert

Key reserves: Jae Crowder, Royce O'Neale

Reminder: Living seats is the official ticket distributor LakersNation.com. New customers use "LAKERSNATION" (all CAPS) in the Vivid Seats application on your phone and get a 10% discount on any ticket order for home games for the Lakers for the rest of the season.

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