The Lakers had their two-game win streak stopped on Friday night.
L.A. lost their bid for three in a row as the Utah Jazz dismantled their defense. It was a high-scoring game from the start until Utah ran away in the fourth, 130-116.
The Lakers’ core, even though they have had high turnover over the years, have been longer together than the Jazz. But Utah’s team was broken down over the summer, leaving Mike Conley as the only starter left from last season. Yet the Jazz looked like a well-oiled machine against the Lakers and it seems that it’s no accident that Utah is 7-3.
It felt like the Lakers fell in love with having a shootout against the Jazz. The Lakers couldn’t keep up with Utah’s ball movement. In the first half, L.A. seemed to have died on some screens. As a result, the Jazz made their last five three-pointers in that half. Utah scored a total of 75 points. It’s not like the Lakers shot badly that time; it’s just that the Jazz shot at a ridiculous level.
The third quarter was electrifying for the Lakers as they started switching a lot more and made more of a concerted effort to disrupt the Jazz’s rhythm. The usually turnover-prone Utah only had three giveaways in the first half but the Lakers made them double that number in the third. Russell Westbrook continued his great play off the bench. And once again, Lonnie Walker IV and Austin Reaves electrified the crowd with some exciting plays in the third. They had a 13-4 run to cut the deficit to two. The Jazz still led, 100-95, at the end of three.
The Lakers went cold in the fourth and had some dry spells that might have cost them the game. The veteran Mike Conley scored five points to up the lead to 13. The physicality and size by the Jazz eventually took its toll on the Lakers. L.A. never recovered and the Lakers are now 2-6.
Russell Westbrook was fantastic off the bench with 26 points and 6 assists. At times, it felt like he was the only one keeping the team in the game. Anthony Davis scored 22 but he was silent in the second half, only scoring two points in that span. LeBron James nearly had a triple-double with 17-11-8 but he had questionable decision-making and continued to settle on some shots. That’s probably the product of how healthy he is at the moment but he probably should’ve deferred more because it really hurt the flow for the Lakers. L.A. actually shot 11 for 26 (.423) from three, which is excellent.
Unfortunately, the Jazz’s size came into play. Lauri Markkanen led five players in double figures with 27 points; he also grabbed 10 boards. Ex-Laker Jordan Clarkson torched his old team with 20 points. While they’re not exactly defensive stoppers (they do let teams score in the paint a lot), their height and size gave them more offensive boards and more chances to score (as in the Jazz had 20 more field goal attempts). Utah had the advantage in second chance points, 25-14. We all know the Jazz are three-happy; they went for 17 for 40 (.425) from behind the arc. Utah played beautiful basketball and had great movement. They had 31 assists for the game.
The Lakers’ offense had finally leveled up in this game… but, unfortunately, the defense was just not on the same page. Maybe not even in the same library. The Lakers also put themselves in a hole by allowing 75 points in the first half.
L.A. has a matinee game on Sunday next against the young Cleveland Cavaliers. Hopefully, they can keep up their offense and get their defense back on track. I mean, anything is better than allowing 130 points, right?