Off to their best 30-game start since the 1999-2000 championship season, the Los Angeles Lakers have high aspirations for another title.
Utah, meanwhile, is just looking for a healthy starting lineup.
Los Angeles looks for its fifth win in a row on Friday night at Staples Center as it faces the injury-riddled Utah Jazz in the teams’ first meeting since last year’s playoffs.
The Lakers (25-5) have won seven straight over Utah at home, including three games in the Western Conference semifinals last year. Los Angeles, which also owns a 14-game overall home winning streak, won that series in six games.
This is the first game for the Lakers since Sunday’s 130-113 win over Golden State.
Kobe Bryant, third in the NBA with 26.3 points per game, scored 31 against the Warriors as Los Angeles followed up its 92-83 Christmas Day victory over the Boston Celtics with its most points this season.
The Lakers lead the league in scoring, averaging 107.3 points. Utah, meanwhile, has allowed 106.7 points per game while losing its last three road games.
“For us, we just wanted to move on (past the Celtics game),” said Bryant, averaging 29.3 points as Los Angeles has won eight of 10. “We were ready to go. We knew what we had to do, so it was pretty easy for us to switch gears and come out and perform.”
Bryant has performed plenty of times in his career against the Jazz. In last season’s playoffs versus Utah, he averaged 33.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.2 assists.
Backcourt mate Derek Fisher is coming off his best shooting game of the season - 9-of-12 for 19 points against the Warriors. He had made just 32.0 percent of his shots and averaged 9.3 points in his three previous games.
In last season’s playoff series against Utah, however, Fisher hit 57.1 percent from the field, including 11-of-17 from 3-point range, while averaging 14.2 points.
While the Lakers hope to extend their home streak, the Jazz will try to pick up their first victory on the road since defeating Detroit 120-114 in double overtime on Dec. 19.
Utah (19-14) is coming off a 112-95 win over Philadelphia on Monday. Deron Williams, who averaged 22.3 points and 11.5 assists in last season’s playoff matchup with Los Angeles, led the Jazz with 27 points against the 76ers, including a season-high four 3-pointers in six attempts.
“It’s probably the first time all season I’ve felt 100 percent, or close to it,” said Williams, who has missed 13 games in 2008-09 due to calf and ankle injuries. “It’s the first game I’ve felt like that. Tonight, I was pain-free.”
The same cannot be said of the rest of Utah’s roster. Mehmet Okur returned Monday following a three-game absence due to back spasms and had his 10th double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
“He looked like he was pretty worn out,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.
Carlos Boozer could be out for awhile after the team announced on Tuesday that the seventh-year power forward will have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. A date for surgery has not been scheduled.
Paul Millsap, though, could return on Friday after missing three games with a sprained knee ligament suffered in Utah’s 94-86 loss to Milwaukee on Dec. 23. Millsap is averaging 18.7 points and 11.5 boards in his last 16 games.
Utah’s last win in Los Angeles was 98-94 on Jan. 1, 2006.