In a back-and-forth game, the Los Angeles Lakers got the last laugh against the Utah Jazz. Perhaps even more so considering their best players still playing are Alex Caruso, JaVale McGee and the legendary Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and still got a 113-109 win at home.
Yes, the Jazz were also missing key players. Utah is definitely a different team without Kyle Korver, Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors (not to mention Raul Neto and Dante Exum). However, giving up 32 points to Caldwell-Pope, 18 points, 11 assists to Caruso (even if he’s played well of late) and 22 points, 8 rebounds to McGee are hardly excusable, especially considering that the Jazz could make a run at home court in the first round.
The gradual death blow from the Lakers began late in the third quarter. Quin Snyder had a lineup of Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles, Georges Niang and Ekpe Udoh out on the floor for extended time. Consequently, the Jazz went from up 78-68 with 4:51 left in the third to down 86-85 just one minute into the fourth.
LA went on to build that lead to as many as six and held it there for effectively the rest of the game.
Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert came back into the game with plenty of time to recover and retake the lost lead, but a lack of quality aggression from Mitchell (19 points on 5 of 17 shooting) and Gobert somehow losing the battle against McGee lessened their respective impacts. And with Joe Ingles going 4 of 11 from the field Utah simply had no reliable method of scoring.
Normally, Utah doesn’t have a problem with a lack of traditional scorers (just look at their roster and what they get out of it) but in LA their normal game simply wasn’t present.
“We were taking quick shots, sometimes they may be open but we’ve been a team that’s moved the ball and shared it,” Snyder said.
Given the lack of offense, the missing pieces of Korver, Favors and Rubio hurt especially as Korver’s 3-point shooting likely could have boosted the 13 of 42 mark the Jazz put up (tied for the seventh-most attempted by Utah this season but tied for 60th in percentage). Favors and Rubio always add great pick-and-roll play as well (something Utah lacked late with Ingles and Mitchell struggling).
The list of things Utah’s missing player would have added is much longer (such as Favors aiding the Jazz on the boards and with rim protection), so to is the same list for the Lakers. The bottom line is that the Jazz lost a game they shouldn’t have even with the injuries.
The loss drops Utah another game behind Portland, the team in fourth, and leaves the door open for the Jazz to drop out of the fifth seed. As the standings currently sit, Utah will have to win at least one of its last two games or hope Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the LA Clippers each lose at least one of their last two games. Utah will play the Clippers in their season finale.