A game against a potential second-round opponent with playoff seed implications is a tough act to follow, much less a game against a potential second-round opponent with playoff seed implications and six ejections (five players and a half-naked weirdo), fights in the stands, Mark Cuban eating crow about Ron Artest's decision-making skills and a 28-point margin of victory.
Thursday's win over the Dallas Mavericks was certainly one for the books, making the second game of a back-to-back in Utah feel even more inevitably anticlimactic. After all, the Jazz have been in a free fall since Jerry Sloan resigned and Deron Williams was dealt. The Jazz are 2-8 in their past 10 games and losers of six straight heading into Friday, paced for just their second losing season since 1983 (despite being 14 games above .500 as recently as Jan. 14). They also are down several players due to injury and just signed fringe NBA player/D-League mainstay Kyle Weaver out of necessity.
In other words, it's a game with odds just lopsided enough to make Lakers fans feel simultaneously cocky and nervous.
For more perspective on the Jazz, we spoke with Spencer Ryan Hall from Salt City Hoops (TrueHoop network). Here are a few items to be mindful of once the ball is jumped.
K Bros: Is there anything notably different about the Jazz in the Ty Corbin era (beyond the tailspin)? Has the style of play or rotation changed significantly? Are players still working hard for him?
Spencer Ryan Hall: Besides the obviously terrible play, the most surprising has been the way comments from players now include a lot of excuses. One of my favorite things about a Jerry Sloan press conference was listening to him bristle and respond to questions that included possible explanations for mistakes or losses. This season has provided some legitimate excuses for poor play, but I miss the fighting spirit from the players and coaches.
From a rotation standpoint, Corbin seems prepared to play out the string with the rookie trio of Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans getting a lot of minutes. I don't think any players have quit, but with injuries and confusion and inexperience, the product on the floor hasn't been close to what Jazz fans expected at the start of the year.
K Bros: When the Nets finally dealt Favors, I wondered if shifting from blatant trade bait to an actual player might improve his performance from what he's done in N.J. Since arriving in Utah, how has he looked and have you seen anything that could be particularly useful against the Lakers?
SRH: Derrick Favors has shown more beast potential in one or two plays this season than a whole generation of big men. Most surprising to me is an 18-footer that he is knocking down with more regularity. He's so young, it's not inconceivable that he could still grow. The Jazz still have no complete answer to the Laker big men, but Favors will at least provide some hope for the future.
K Bros: As of now, the Jazz will be competing without Raja Bell, Devin Harris, Ronnie Price or Andrei Kirilenko. At the risk of sounding dismissive, do they have a chance of winning this game? If so, what will put them over the top?
SRH: I won't lie. It could get bad tonight. The only hope for the Jazz is that the rookies don't seem to get intimidated and will hopefully treat the game as an opportunity to not get embarrassed when everyone expects they will. Everyone in the NBA can play, so a combination of unfocused/bored play from the Lakers and inspired play from guys who don't always get time in the spotlight could lead to a surprising result.
That's why they play the games, right?
I also answered a few questions for Salt City Hoops about the Lakers. Check out my thoughts on the post-PJ era in L.A., offseason needs and the scariest playoff opponents from either conference.