Jazz-Lakers Preview

For better or worse, the Los Angeles Lakers are quickly getting

their lone back-to-back-to-back stretch out of the way.

The Utah Jazz, meanwhile, are finally set to take the court in a

game that counts.

Los Angeles looks to avoid its first 0-3 start in 33 years

Tuesday night when it hosts Utah, which becomes the final team to

open its season.

After blowing an 11-point lead late against Chicago on

Christmas, the Lakers (0-2) continued their arduous stretch with a

100-91 loss in Sacramento on Monday, shooting 1 of 16 from 3-point

range.

Each NBA team will play on three consecutive days at least once

due to the lockout-shortened 66-game season, and Los Angeles was

forced to face its test right off the bat.

“Everyone is going to have to play three straight games and we

will have to find a way through this,” coach Mike Brown said. “We

have had a lot of practice, followed by a long day today, but

everyone has to go through it as well.”

Kobe Bryant scored 29 points but missed 14 of his 24 shots,

while Metta World Peace scored 19 points off the bench.

The Lakers haven’t lost their first three games since 1978 – the

season before they drafted Magic Johnson with the No. 1 overall

pick.

Bryant wasn’t even two months old then.

“We have a lot of games left, a lot of games left,” World Peace

said. “Everything is going OK. Everything will be great.”

Los Angeles looks for its first victory against a Utah team it

has beaten 25 of the last 28 times at home, including the

playoffs.

The Jazz, though, come in with extra time to prepare for a

season opener without legendary coach Jerry Sloan for the first

time since 1988.

Utah went 39-43 last season, missing the playoffs for the first

time in five years and finishing with a sub-.500 record for the

first time since going 26-56 in 2004-05.

It was a tumultuous season with as much attention focused off

the court as on it. Sloan abruptly retired in February after a

reported feud with Deron Williams, who was traded to New Jersey

soon after.

The Jazz finished 8-20 after Sloan retired to slide out of the

postseason picture under new coach Tyrone Corbin, who will seek

improvement with a largely inexperienced team.

A host of youngsters will play key roles, including 20-year-old

Derrick Favors, who came over from the Nets in the Williams trade.

He averaged 8.2 points in 20.2 minutes per game after arriving in

Utah but will see more time this season, especially after the Jazz

traded Mehmet Okur to New Jersey on Thursday.

Rookie lottery picks Alec Burks and Enes Kanter should see

plenty of minutes as well alongside Gordon Hayward, the No. 9

overall pick from the 2010 draft.

Hayward scored a career-high 34 points as Utah closed its season

with a 107-103 victory over Denver on April 13.

“You see the future out there and the future is bright,” Burks

said.

Much like Sloan’s teams of the past, though, the veteran

presence still remains.

Utah will lean heavily on Al Jefferson, who averaged 18.6 points

and 9.7 rebounds while playing all 82 games for only the second

time in his seven-year career.

Paul Millsap had a breakout 2010-11 in his fifth season,

starting all 76 games he played and averaging 17.3 points and 7.6

boards. Fellow veterans Devin Harris and Raja Bell also figure to

give Corbin a balance between youth and experience.

“We finished on a high note, won some games,” Harris said. “But

the downfall we had toward the end of last season was unacceptable.

We know that, and we’re looking forward to getting back at

it.”

Utah split four games with Los Angeles last season. The Jazz won

86-85 in L.A. in the most recent meeting April 5 behind 22 apiece

from Millsap and Hayward, ending a 17-game losing streak at Staples

Center.