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Utah comeback forces OT, but ultimately fall to Lakers

The Jazz erased a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes, but lose on LeBron game-winner in OT

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Utah Jazz Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

With 1:36 left in regulation the Utah Jazz trailed the LA Lakers by 10 points, 124-114. The Jazz were a mere 96 seconds away from putting their playoff hopes in the hands of others. But double-digit margins are hardly easy to overcome.

Fortunately, “hard to overcome” and “impossible” are not the same thing as the Jazz wound up proving by outscoring the Lakers 10-0 in the final 95 seconds to force overtime.

Ochai Agbaji began the rally by drilling a corner 3-pointer off an assist from Kelly Olynyk. Kris Dunn added a quick layup after a LeBron James turnover. Dunn then grabbed the board after Anthony Davis missed a mid-range jumper and passed the ball off to Olynyk. With just over 40 seconds on the clock, the 7-foot center casually dribbled to the top of the 3-point arc and pulled up, banking in the shot from 28 feet out straight on.

Olynyk’s shot got the game to 124-122 with 42 seconds left. In less than a minute, a 10-point Lakers lead had been trimmed all the way to two points. So when Davis missed another mid-range shot the Jazz had their chance to tie at close to the last moment, having the ball with 21 seconds on the clock.

Utah didn’t waste all the time in getting a shot. Damian Jones was fouled underneath the basket and hit two free throws to tie the game. LeBron’s attempted game-winner at the buzzer in regulation rolled off the rim and so everyone in attendance got free basketball.

Overtime started off with a bang. Anthony Davis beat Jones for the tip, but Kelly Olynyk snagged the ball out of the air and hit a layup plus a free throw on an and-one foul.

But the Jazz wouldn’t score again in OT until 2:23 left on the clock, roughly two-and-a-half minutes of scoreless basketball. Were it not for the Lakers also going scoreless for much of that time, the end of overtime would hardly have been exciting.

The tide appeared to turn in Utah’s favor when Olynyk hit a 3-pointer with 1:39 on the clock to give the Jazz a 132-129 lead.

But two possessions later, including an Austin Reaves jumper and LeBron James free throws, put the Lakers up 133-132.

On the possession following James’ go-ahead free throws, Talen Horton-Tucker drew a foul from former Jazzman Jarred Vanderbilt and got two free shots from the line. Horton-Tucker only made one but it tied the game, and with 35 seconds Utah had every chance to either force a stop and hit a game-winner, or match anything the Lakers did on their possession.

To no one’s surprise, LeBron got the last shot for the Lakers and to perhaps just as little surprise, he managed to get to the rim and hit a go-ahead layup with 27 seconds left. Horton-Tucker’s attempt to match on the other end with seven seconds on the clock bounced out and the Lakers rebounded the ball which clinched the game.

There were bright spots in the performances of several Jazz players. Olynyk went a perfect 4-for-4 and tied for the team lead in points with 23 while also grabbing seven rebounds and dishing seven assists. Joining Olynyk for the game-high in points was Horton-Tucker who also had seven assists. Agbaji was the third Jazzman to score 20-plus points as he had 22.

This game also saw the return of Collin Sexton. The young guard had sat out every game since the All-Star break with a hamstring injury but played 16 minutes in a limited return. He had 15 points, including going 7-of-9 on shots inside the arc (which made up for going 0-for-5 on threes), and dishing three assists. Jones, who played 32 minutes (the single-game high for him in a Jazz uniform), scored 16 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting and a team-best eight rebounds.

The loss maybe ends the playoffs hopes of the Utah Jazz. It depends on how the Oklahoma City-Golden State game finishes. As of the writing this the game has not finished. An OKC win ensures the Jazz’s playoff hopes end tonight and it will be the first time since 2016 that Utah does not participate in the NBA postseason.