EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — For the third consecutive game, the Utah Jazz will have a different lineup when they take to the Staples Center court tonight.
The Jazz's starting small forward spot now belongs to C.J. Miles.
The sixth-year pro will replace Gordon Hayward in the opening lineup after the rookie replaced usual starter Andrei Kirilenko at the 3 spot for one game (a 96-85 loss at Philadelphia).
This latest change comes on the heels of a four-game losing streak back East and just in time for a brutal back-to-back that includes tonight's game against the two-time-defending-champion Los Angeles Lakers and Wednesday night's home game against the NBA-leading San Antonio Spurs.
"The biggest thing I want to see is how our team responds," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We've lost the last eight quarters we've played. We need to see if we can get some life and get back into this thing."
This will be the first start of the season for Miles, who had settled nicely into a reserve role after previously starting and subbing during the first five years of his NBA career in Utah.
"(Coach) came to me before shootaround, and said he was going to switch it up a little bit," Miles said after the Jazz finished their morning prep session for tonight's showdown. "I'm just going to play. I've been in every situation. I don't change the way I play the game. I just go play."
At practice Monday, Sloan said he remains concerned with Miles' defense, even though he has made strides on that side of the court. Miles will be matched with Lakers' versatile forward Ron Artest.
Miles averaged 11.9 points and 3.1 rebounds in 41 games off the bench this season but has dipped recently (12-for-38 shooting in last four games).
"He's struggling a little bit with all of it," Sloan said. "Hopefully, we get him going, because we need somebody to help us."
Miles, who has started 126 of 296 career games, also won't have quite the green light he normally has off the bench while playing alongside Deron Williams, Raja Bell, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.
Regardless of lineup change, the Jazz (27-17) face a tremendous challenge against the Lakers (32-13).
Not only is Utah on its worst slump in two years, but the Jazz haven't beaten the Lakers in L.A. since Jan. 1, 2006. Since then, Utah has lost 16 consecutive contests against Kobe Bryant & Co., including eight straight regular-season match-ups.
"We just know we need to win," Miles said.
And Sloan said the Jazz must fight through the adversity together even if others have lost hope in this team.
"I told them a lot of people have broken their ankles because they had fallen off the wagon," Sloan said. "That's what happens, so we've just got to play basketball."
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