April 9, 2018, 3:34 am
The Lakers did their best to hang with the Jazz on Sunday but simply did not have the players available to keep pace with a strong Utah squad.
The game started poorly for Los Angeles with Utah scoring the first seven points and eventually taking a 19-4 lead against their overmatched opponent. The Lakers stormed back, led by Josh Hart’s defensive effort — in particular a huge block shot on a Donovan Mitchell dunk attempt. Tyler Ennis came off the bench to help spark the 10-0 run that help stave off the Jazz, chipping-in four points and three steals while earning the team’s only positive rating in the period.
Los Angeles was able to go into the half down only six points even though they really only got production from three players: Hart, Ennis and Julius Randle, who contributed 37-of-44 points.
The Lakers could not keep up their super-human defensive effort going in the third quarter, failing to hold the Jazz at bay and falling behind 82-67 by the end of the third quarter. Los Angeles really needed to shoot well from 3-point range to counteract the strength of Utah’s interior defense — instead they made only 2-of-17 from distance going into the final frame. One culprit in particular was Brook Lopez who had an off night, going 0-of-10 from the floor and 0-of-4 from 3-point range, failing to see time on the court in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers fell behind by as many as 21 points, only drawing as close as 13 before falling by the eventual score of 112-97.
The Jazz were led by rookie guard Mitchell, who was impressive all night with his athleticism, shooting, passing and array of offensive moves. He finished with 28 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, one steal and one block on 9-of-18 shooting from the field.
Joe Ingles showed his offensive versatility all night as well, accruing 22 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, one steal and one block on 9-of-12 from the floor and 3-of-6 from 3-point range. He was able to score easily all night, often strolling to the basket uncontested or knocking down wide open shots from the perimeter as the Lakers focused on other elements of the Jazz attack.
The Lakers were led by Hart, who played excellent defense while contributing 25 points, four rebounds, one assists, two steals and two blocks on 10-of-18 shooting from the field.
Randle was limited to only 25 minutes in the blowout but still finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists while shooting 6-of-12 from the field and 5-of-5 from the line.
Ennis was the surprise star of the evening for the Lakers, scoring a career-high 22 points with six rebounds, two assists, three steals and a plus-5 rating. He shot 9-of-18 from the floor and played a strong, aggressive brand of basketball all night.
Los Angeles has limped towards the end of this season, losing six of eight due to all the injuries that have crippled their team.
The Jazz clinched a playoff berth with the victory, though they still have a lot to fight for as they only hold a two-game lead over the eight seed.
Key Stats and Observations
-The Lakers were only able to amass 20 assists compared to the Jazz who tallied 35 assists on their 42 made field goals.
-Utah shot 42-of-83 from the field (50.6 percent) vs. Los Angeles who made only 37-of-93 (39.8 percent). The difference was even more pronounced from 3-point range where the Jazz knocked down 13-of-36 (36.1 percent) while the Lakers converted 5-of-25 (20.0 percent). Los Angeles was even more inept from distance prior to the fourth quarter as they had only made 2-of-17 from distance at that juncture.
-The Lakers did a good job at the free throw line making 18-of-22 (81.8 percent) while the Jazz shot well below their season average, knocking down only 15-of-22 (68.2 percent).
-After losing the turnover battle 21-5 in their last contest, the Lakers did a better job in this game, turning the ball over 14 times compared to 18 miscues by Utah.
The Lakers host James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Tuesday for their last home game of the season.
It’s hard to predict the nature of the upcoming game as Houston has already clinched the top seed in the Western Conference and therefore may choose to rest some of their key players for this meaningless contest.
Los Angeles also has nothing to gain and therefore may choose to avoid playing any of its multitude of injured players including Kuzma, Ball and Ingram — the three key players who appear to have a chance of suiting up.
What the Lakers have demonstrated this year is a will to fight and grit that was absent in previous years, lending one to believe that those that do take the court for the Purple and Gold will be battling their hardest against whoever is in uniform for the Rockets.