Lakers-Jazz Preview

The Associated Press

After struggling on the road for much of the early season, the Los Angeles Lakers have started to find their groove away from home at an opportune time.

The Lakers will try to earn another win on their season-high, six-game trip when they visit the struggling Utah Jazz on Saturday night.

Los Angeles (14-9) has won three straight games overall and two in a row on the road after dropping seven of its first eight away from home. The Lakers topped 100 points for the first time on the road this season by beating Minnesota 106-101 on Sunday. After returning home to rout Charlotte 106-73, they began this trip Friday in Denver with a 93-89 victory - their second-fewest points allowed on the road this season.

Andrew Bynum scored a team-high 22 points and had 10 rebounds Friday while Kobe Bryant finished with 20 points despite missing 16 of 23 shots.

"We made it really hard on ourselves, but it's good to get a win," coach Mike Brown said. "Our defense got us a win in a tough environment. What an ugly game, we found a way to win."

The Lakers have found a way to beat the Jazz (12-9) twice this season, winning 90-87 in overtime at Utah on Jan. 11 behind 40 points from Bryant, and blowing them out 96-71 at home Dec. 27, when the Jazz shot 32.2 percent - their worst performance in nearly six years.

Utah (12-9) has averaged 102.0 points in the 11 games since its last matchup with Los Angeles, but has also given up 105.8 per game over its last six contests, losing four of them.

A 119-101 defeat at Golden State on Thursday marked the most points the Jazz have allowed this season and spoiled Gordon Hayward's season high-tying 21 points. They managed to put up 101 points as a team despite playing without their two point guards Devin Harris (hamstring) and Earl Watson (ankle).

Watson and fellow guard Raja Bell (strained right adductor) remain day to day, while Harris will be a gametime decision for Saturday as Utah tries to avoid a season-high third consecutive overall loss.

"We've got to stay together and fight with the ones we have healthy," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We didn't really get into our offensive sets, and then on defense they beat us on the boards, beat us to the loose balls and just out-hustled us."

The Jazz have split their last six home games after winning seven of their first eight in Salt Lake City with the lone loss coming to the Lakers. Another visit from Los Angeles might not help them get back on track.

The Lakers, who have won 14 of the last 19 overall meetings in this series, are seeking to win three straight in Utah for the first time since March 13-Dec. 4, 1985.

The Lakers will travel east for the remaining four games on their trip, beginning with a Monday night visit to Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia.

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