L.A. actually shot well, but Utah’s advantage in defense and rebounding won the night.
Tonight, your Los Angeles Lakers looked thoroughly outmatched by a Utah Jazz team that everyone expected to tank the 2022-23 season. Though semi-valiant comeback efforts were made in the second half, the Jazz enjoyed a double-digit advantage for much of the night, ultimately winning by a comfortable 130-116 margin.
Los Angeles wasted a very good bench performance from Russell Westbrook and an excellent first half from Anthony Davis, though The Brow was pretty disengaged when the game started to matter. Worst of all, LeBron James once again looked majorly fatigued, possibly the result of the sore left foot he insists on playing through, the virus that had him bed-ridden for several days earlier in the week, or maybe just being a guy playing in his 20th NBA season.
The first quarter was a high-scoring affair, as both teams offered little resistance inside. Westbrook once again provided a burst of energy in his minutes off the bench. He made two highlight-reel level dimes in the frame. Here’s the first, a no-look dish to a cutting Troy Brown Jr.:
Brodie then made an excellent read to a driving Anthony Davis, who flushed an overhead lob from Russ:
Westbrook – 2 quick threes in the first!
Excellent chemistry moment – a dual rock-the-baby post-bucket celebration courtesy of Beverley and Westbrook:
Jazz breakout star Lauri Markkanen was absolutely lethal, showing off the kind of handling and driving he was rarely given the freedom to explore either with the Chicago Bulls or Cleveland Cavaliers. The 7′ forward (jumping at the three for the jumbo-sized Jazz) scored 12 quick points and three rebounds in the frame.
Anthony Davis bettered that tally though, looking lively while scoring mostly around the rim (albeit with a floater and three for good measure). He finished with 14 points in the opening quarter.
The Lakers were on fire from deep during that initial period, going 5-of-8 from three as a team. They struggled to contain Utah on the other end, but kept things relatively close thanks to some sharpshooting and the play of Davis, Westbrook, and Brown, who had seven points, a rebound and a steal in the quarter.
The mostly defense-free affair would prove to be an ominous harbinger of things to come. The Jazz led 40-34 at the end of the first quarter. James was scoreless in the period and had some sloppy turnovers.
Los Angeles promptly went on a 12-4 run to begin the quarter to briefly nab a 46-44 lead, capped off by this Matty Ice trey:
Sadly, it wouldn’t last. The Jazz kept getting second-chance opportunities, and while L.A. continued to score at a decent clip, they couldn’t match Utah’s output. Utah would go on to outpace Los Angeles 31-16 to close out the first half. During the period, Collin Sexton and Ex-Laker Jordan Clarkson accounted for 11 points apiece of the Jazz’s 35 total.
AD had himself a half, scoring 20 points total through the two quarters. Westbrook also looked excellent, playing fairly in control and looking to pass most when he didn’t have clear looks.
Where things looked really bad was on the other end of the court, where no one could do much to stop the very tall Jazz, who led 75-62 at the break.
The Jazz didn’t relent in the third quarter, and their lead quickly ballooned to as much as 16 points during the frame.
Midway through the period, however, LeBron James appeared to awaken from his slumber, keying an 11-3 Lakers run to cut the Jazz advantage to 88-80. He did most of his damage from inside, as his jump shooting has been ice cold lately (more on that in a bit).
With the Jazz back in front 91-82, L.A. head coach Darvin Ham subbed out James in favor of reserve Juan Toscano-Anderson. The Lakers promptly went on an 8-2 run, kicked off by a ton of effective Russell Westbrook scoring, including his third (!) triple of the night, a couple free throws, and some nifty finishes around the rack.
Starting Lakers shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV got into the fun with an uncontested coast-to-coast breakaway dunk:
Thanks largely to the play of L.A.’s totally revitalized sixth man, the Lakers cut the Jazz lead to 100-95 at the end of the period. The Crypto.com Arena crowd, including a very animated Jeanie Buss sitting near courtside, had reason for optimism heading into the game’s final 12 regulation minutes.
Because Los Angeles couldn’t contain Utah’s offensive attack, the team left itself totally vulnerable to its own scoring dry spells. The club did start missing in bunches at the top of the fourth quarter, leading LeBron James to press a bit.
Playing with desperation may have (indirectly) exacerbated the aforementioned foot injury for James, when the 6’9″ power forward planted awkwardly on his sore left foot while running across the baseline for a lay-in attempt, as his Lakers trailed 118-105.
That signified basically the turning point of the game. The Jazz preserved their lead as the clock ticked down.
We got a rare Kendrick Nunn appearance when both head coaches emptied their deep benches with the game all but over at the 1:17 mark in the fourth quarter. The Jazz rose to a 7-3 record, while Los Angeles fell to a disappointing 2-6 on the season.
Five Jazz players scored 15 points on more, led by Markkanen, who had 27 points (on 9-of-17 shooting), 13 rebounds, four assists, a steal, and a block in 32:42. 35-year-old Utah point guard, a rumored L.A. trade target, finished with a double-double of his own, scoring 15 points (on just 6-of-11 shooting) and dishing out 10 rebounds.
Westbrook was L.A.’s leading scorer for the night, putting up 28 points on 9-of-14 shooting (including a shocking 3-of-5 from deep) in 29:25. He also had six assists, three rebounds, and two steals.
After that 20-point first half, Davis did basically nothing in the second half. He made just one basket in the game’s final two quarters, finishing with 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting, eight rebounds, two blocks and two dimes. James’s inefficient scoring continued, although he did have a double-double, as this writer predicted. He scored 17 points on a normally Westbrookian 7-of-19 (36.8%) shooting, pulled down 10 rebounds, passed for eight assists, and had one block. The 18-time All-Star’s long-range shooting slump continues, as he was 0-of-5 on the night. He has missed his last 13 straight three-point attempts dating back to last Sunday’s win against the Denver Nuggets.
Though both teams shot pretty well from the floor overall (50.5% for the Jazz, 48.2% for the Lakers), Utah shot 103 total field goals to L.A.’s 83. Both clubs also had similarly good conversion rates from long range (42.5% for the Jazz, 42.3% for the Lakers), but Utah took 14 more triples than L.A.! Part of these disparities in shot attempts can be chalked up to the Jazz’s edge in offensive rebounding, as the team gobbled up 15 boards on the offensive glass as compared to the Lakers’ nine, resulting in a significant edge in second-chance opportunities. Overall, Utah led L.A. 52-46 in total rebounding.
One glass half-full note, as mentioned frequently by L.A.’s Spectrum SportsNet broadcasting team: Los Angeles has yet to play against a team with a sub-.500 record this season, making their start to the year basically the inverse of the cupcake schedule last season’s secretly-terrible team was treated to.
Unfortunately, the next team on L.A.’s schedule is the 7-1 Cleveland Cavaliers, who are riding a seven-game win streak (outscoring opponents by an elite average margin of 14.3 points during the stretch) and will be hosting the Lakers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Sunday. Yikes.