Not the Same Old Jazz

L.A. has had the upper hand against Utah in recent years. More specifically, the Lakers have won four consecutive season series against the Jazz, going a combined 10-4 across that span, 7-3 in the last 10 and 19-3 all-time at STAPLES Center during the regular season, and that’s not to mention three straight playoff eliminations of Utah.

Not that many of those wins were easy.

The Jazz teams were all coached by Jerry Sloan (retired), anchored by Deron Williams (traded to New Jersey before the deadline) on the perimeter and a combination of Carlos Boozer (signed by Chicago in the offseason) and Mehmet Okur (out for the season). Paul Millsap and Andrei Kirilenko remain, but Kirilenko, Raja Bell, Devin Harris and Ronnie Price will all miss Friday night’s game due to respective injuries, according to the Jazz Twitter account. That leaves a probable starting line up that looks very little like what L.A. has seen in Salt Lake City:

PG: Earl Watson; SG: C.J. Miles; SF: Millsap; PF: Al Jefferson; C: Kyrylo Fesenko*
*Side note: We’re very pleased to have spelled Kyrylo’s name correctly before looking it up.

This leaves a short bench of youngsters Derrick Favors and Jeremy Evans, Gordon Hayward and Francisco Elson for Jazz Coach Tyrone Corbin. It will be the first time in the careers of Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher that Jerry Sloan* won’t be standing on the sideline for Utah, a unique factoid in its own right.
*Side note two: Sloan moved up from Jazz assistant to head coach on Dec. 9, 1988, just eight days before then Bulls assistant coach Phil Jackson filled in for an ejected Doug Collins on Dec. 17, 1988. Sloan wouldn’t leave until earlier this season, while Jackson became the Bulls head coach the following season.

And while the Lakers have lost only once since the All-Star break, Utah has won only five times, going 5-13 to fall out of the playoff race in the West. It’s been worse of late, with six straight losses coming at the hands of Houston, Memphis and Oklahoma City on the road and New Orleans (OT), Dallas and Washington (OT) at home.

Not that L.A.’s coaches are paying any attention to that. Assistant coach Jim Cleamons said that regardless of who’s in the starting line up or what’s happened recently, the Lakers are treating Utah as seriously as ever.

At 7:30 Pacific, we’ll see if the Lakers can win a ninth straight game and put more pressure on the San Antonio Spurs, 2.5 games up on L.A. heading into a tough Friday night contest at surging Houston.