Their shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers lost their third straight match to the Utah Jazz, 139-116, at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City. LA was the team’s best player without three of its starters, most notably LeBron James, but even with all three players available, the Lakers lost by double digits at home to Utah last Friday. Jazz is younger, deeper, faster and more skillful.
We knew LeBron James (sore left foot) and Patrick Beverley (not ill with COVID-19) would miss the game, as would some role players, but LA fans were unprepared to find out the team’s fourth-best scorer , starting gunner Lonnie Walker IV was also sidelined due to a non-COVID-19 illness of his own. Keep in mind that LeBron James was also bedridden for several days last week with a non-COVID-19 illness. That non-COVID-19 is sure to get around.
Los Angeles head coach Darvin Ham kept Kendrick Nunn as his starting point guard (despite a miserable performance last night) and promoted Austin Reaves to the starting gun for the shooting guard appearance. Even with James absent, Ham decided to keep Anthony Davis as his starting center and start 6’9″ tall man Wenyen Gabriel as a power forward.
The loss leaves the Lakers ranked No. 14 in the Western Conference with a 2-8 record. The Jazz, meanwhile, are still number one in the West (!) after winning their third straight game to take their season record to 9-3.
During the first quarter of the contest, the Lakers’ defense put up no resistance against Utah, especially from long range, but both teams shot the ball well. The Jazz went from deep 8 of 12, and while LA had the exact same win rate from distance (66.7%), the team shot a far more modest six threes and nailed four. The Lakers went 14 out of 20 from the Deep overall.
As for the Lakers in terms of highlights, there wasn’t much to go after the first half of the game – in fact, there wasn’t much to go after the first quarter of the game! So let’s enjoy some select cuts from some of the two active future Lakers Hall of Famers, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis.
Here’s an excellent roll to the edge for AD from a Troy Brown Jr. dish:
Russell Westbrook may not be the same athlete he was a decade ago, but boy oh boy can he still get up there:
Davis managed to shake defender Lauri Markkanen, the new-look jazz’s top player, with this nasty spin move:
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Utah’s more frequent looks from afar and the free-throw line helped the club take a 42-34 lead by the end of the frame.
In the second quarter of the game, the Lakers fought back offensively but again struggled to contain the Jazz. With Los Angeles so understaffed, rookie wing Max Christie got some burns in the first half. Westbrook (8 points, 3 assists) and Davis (9 points) led the Lakers in frame. LA beat Utah 37-32 for that period, but the Jazz still ultimately led 76-71 at the break.
The Jazz really pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring the Lakers 39-27 with a balanced attack. Midway through the fourth quarter, Darvin Ham surrendered, and Lakers fans were treated to a rare sighting of Scotty Pippen Jr. while the Jazz finished their demolition.
Davis and Westbrook, of course, were the leaders of the Lakers. Davis scored 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting, grabbed four rebounds, dealt two dimes, had a steal and made a block. Westbrook scored 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the floor, passed for five assists, pulled down three rebounds, and had a steal and a block. He also posted a team worst -23 plus-minus that night.
Nunn at least bounced back strongly from his 0-point night against the Cavaliers, pouring in 18 points while scoring 7-of-11 from the floor (and 2-of-4 from long range). So, you know, there it is.
Markkanen (a Jazz-best 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting) and ex-Lakeman Jordan Clarkson (22 points on a blistering 8-of-12 shooting, including 5-of-6 from long range) were Utah’s best scorers, but seven Jazz players scored in double figures for the night.
The Jazz defeated the Lakers on rebounds (by a 44-33 margin) and, more disturbingly, on assists (30-15).
Los Angeles is hoping to be a little better in the coming days as it aims to claim its third win of the year. LA will play another “road” game, a toss-up of sorts, against the Los Angeles Clippers (who appear to be going indefinitely without Kawhi Leonard) at their shared Crypto.com Arena.
Assuming James and Walker return (Beverley is so down on offense right now that his minutes are relatively irrelevant), the Lakers will then have a few winnable games at home (yes, really). The club will finally fight with several teams under 500. During their home stand, the Lakers will host the 3-5 Sacramento Kings, the 4-6 Brooklyn Nets, the 3-8 Detroit Pistons and finally the 5-6 San Antonio Spurs.