Lakers win against undermanned Utah Jazz team in overtime

The Lakers move to 41-38. They have won 7 of 8 games.

The Lakers were barely good enough.

Los Angeles takes their fourth straight win as they unnecessarily went to overtime against the shorthanded Utah Jazz, 135-133. The Jazz had no Lauri Markkanen, no Jordan Clarkson, and no Walker Kessler.

Maybe the Lake Show boys were tired. Maybe they’ve been on the road for far too long to their liking. But for the most part, the Lakers lacked the energy. They would play in spurts enough to keep the Jazz at bay.

An example was at the end of the second quarter. Rui Hachimura started making baskets. Dennis Schröder started scoring a bit more. Anthony Davis had a couple of dunks. And they led by 11 at the half. It all seemed easy.

Well, easy some of the time, that is.

An Austin Reaves three boosted the lead to 14. And then the Jazz scored 11 straight. I don’t think we saw any sense of urgency for the Lakers for much of that period. The Jazz then kept putting the pressure on, cutting the deficit to four entering the fourth quarter. Because no matter who is on the court for Utah, what they could do very well was put the ball in the basket.

A Luka Samanic dunk gave Utah a 99-97 lead. The Lakers quickly took the lead back before LeBron James and Austin Reaves were seemingly ready to take it home. A corner three by Reaves gave the Lakers a 124-114 lead with 100 seconds left. Game over, right?

Nope. You already know from reading at the start of this column. The Jazz went on a furious run including a ridiculous banked three-pointer by Kelly Olynyk (one-time Game 7 killer for the Celtics!). After a close shot by Davis that rolled out of the rim, Damian Jones was able to draw a foul (yes, that Damian Jones that played for the Lakers) with 11.4 seconds left. He sank both free throws to tie the game.

LeBron James had a chance to win but his left-handed lay-up was no good. The Jazz closed regulation with 10 straight points. Ridiculous.

In the overtime, Olynyk quickly opened with a lay-up (plus the foul on Schröder). LeBron immediately countered with a three-pointer. It was another back-and-forth before James had two free throws that gave the Lakers a 133-132 lead. Talen Horton-Tucker then went to the line but he split his foul shots. With 34.8 seconds left, LeBron James drove in quickly for a good lay-up and a successful two-for-one possession (Laker fans are very familiar with two-for-ones). THT missed on a fadeaway in the ensuing possession. Jazz had a chance to foul but… hilariously chose not to? Lakers came away with the W.

The ideal situation here was to put the Jazz away immediately so the stars could rest in the fourth quarter and have a better chance at playing them against the Clippers on Wednesday night. At this point, I’d be surprised if both played. The Lakers have officially secured a play-in spot at the minimum. I do know it’s also ideal for them to get the 6th spot so they won’t have to exert extra energy and, of course, worry about the play-in games. I’d prefer they don’t punt (dag, yo) against the Clippers (who are short of Paul George these days) but I guess we’ll see.

But it’s almost like the Lakers would turn the switch on at the right time and it almost cost them. I’d like to think they won’t have to worry about that come play-in/playoff time but they’ve done this a lot this season. So they really have to work on that focus. I believe this team is good enough to go far and I’m not going to argue with anyone that thinks the Lakers can win the championship. The pieces are seemingly there. But is the focus?

LeBron James didn’t have the best game; a lot of his decision-making was atrocious. He settled for a lot of jumpers and made some lazy passes. Still, he scored 9 important points of his 37 in overtime. Austin Reaves had an extremely efficient 28 points off 13 shots. Anthony Davis had 21-14-6 but he was very silent offensively for much of the second half.

On the other side, Kelly Olynyk and Talen Horton-Tucker each had 23 points while the improving Ochai Agbaji scored 22.

Offensive boards tell a story for the Lakers here as they had the edge there, 12-6. It amounted to 15 second chance points for L.A. compared to Utah’s 5.

The Jazz nearly caught the Lakers napping at the end but what matters here is the result: the Lakers got the win. I almost expect a “schedule loss” for the Lakers on Wednesday night and that could be bad enough to get them out of the 6th seed (though they’re very aware of that, I’m sure, and they have some strategy about how to handle this) And let’s not forget that these two teams will meet once again in Los Angeles for the season finale.

But for now, after all the frustration, the Laker fans should enjoy their team winning 7 of 8 games. And that the Lakers season won’t end on April 9th.

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