If the Los Angeles Lakers are going to string together some victories, they'll likely need to do it without one of their top players.
With star guard Steve Nash still injured, the visiting Lakers look to build on their first victory and hand the Utah Jazz a fourth consecutive defeat Wednesday night.
Winless in the preseason and off to its worst start in 34 years, Los Angeles (1-3) quieted critics for the moment with a 108-79 win over Detroit on Sunday. Dwight Howard had 28 points while Kobe Bryant added 15 with eight assists and seven rebounds to pace the star-studded Lakers.
"We needed this bad, just to change the mood and give us some of that feel-good feeling,' said guard Steve Blake, who had six points, six assists and tied his career high with five steals while starting in Nash's place. "Losing games was tough. I guess we did a good job of staying positive, but it feels good, that's for sure.'
While fans and media continue to question the effectiveness of coach Mike Brown's new Princeton-style offense, perhaps the greatest concern surrounding the Lakers might be the health of the 38-year-old Nash. The two-time MVP, who agreed to a three-year, $27 million contract with the Lakers before his trade from Phoenix over the summer, missed the last two games with a non-displaced fracture in his left leg suffered in a loss at Portland last Wednesday.
Nash reportedly could be out from one to four weeks.
Regardless of the duration of Nash's absence, the Lakers hope their first win will enable them to start building momentum.
"I don't think anyone over there was panicked that they were 0-3 or that they hadn't won a preseason game,' Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. "They're a very good team."
Despite a sore foot, Bryant is averaging 26.8 points while Howard has scored 23.3 per contest. Bryant has averaged 30.8 points in his last six games at Utah, including playoffs.
The Lakers split four meetings with Utah (1-3) last season but the Jazz won the last two, including 96-87 at home Feb. 4. Utah has won five of the past seven home matchups.
The Jazz opened with a 113-94 win over Dallas in Salt Lake City, but return home after getting swept on their road trip by a combined 21 points. Utah's longest losing streak last season was four games from Feb. 19-28.
"We were able to be in all three games and had opportunities to win them, and just couldn't finish them off,' coach Tyrone Corbin said after a 103-94 defeat to Memphis on Monday. "We just have to grow and learn from it and continue to get better.'
Gordon Hayward had 19 points and Mo Williams added 17 for the Jazz, who led by as many as 12 in the first half and three at the break.
Williams is averaging 20.8 points in his second stint with the team that drafted him in 2003. Paul Millsap has averaged 21.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in his last five games versus Los Angeles.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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