The Los Angeles Lakers took their perfect record to Utah for a road game against the Jazz. Check out our recap:
The Lakers opened the game with a lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Julius Randle, Luol Deng, and Timofey Mozgov, while Utah countered with George Hill, Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw, and Rudy Gobert. This figured to be a more difficult team to score on than the Houston Rockets, especially with a rim protector like Gobert in the game.
Hood started out hot, connecting on three out of four jumpers to get the Jazz going, while Gobert and Hill connected on a nice lob play. The Lakers went to Young early and often, who was connecting on jumpers the same way he did during the preseason. Young hit one particularly spectacular three as the shot clock expired from about three feet behind the line.
D’Angelo Russell couldn’t get his shot to fall, but he did set up teammates for a couple of assists. Timofey Mozgov struggled against Gobert, with the big Frenchman rejecting him after it looked like he had a little space after a nice move. The Jazz had the lead, but the Lakers did enough to keep it close through most of the first.
Los Angeles received a scare near the end of the quarter when Brandon Ingram felt a twinge in his knee, but after a visit to the locker room he was cleared to return, and Lakers fans resumed breathing.
At the end of the first, the Jazz held a slim lead, 28-27.
The second quarter was ugly at the start, with both teams missing easy shots. Thomas Robinson received his first minutes of the year after Tarik Black found himself in foul trouble, but he struggled to deal with the strength of Derek Favors, who was making his season debut for Utah.
Marcelo Huertas manned the point guard position and had a nice pass to Lou Williams on a backdoor cut for a layup, and hit a nice floater, but then got stripped by Shelvin Mack for an easy layup. Ingram returned to the game but had the unenviable job of switching onto Gobert when Mozgov stepped out to handle dribble penetration. Not surprisingly, Gobert manhandled Ingram, leading to fouls and easy baskets.
Still, the Lakers held their own and the lead swung back and forth between the two teams. Nance had a solid run off the bench, and then Mozgov looked particularly spry when he returned to the game. The Lakers looked to get out and run whenever possible, with Russell throwing some beautiful passes.
Towards the end of the quarter, the Jazz began to really exploit their advantage inside with Favors and Gobert. Randle struggled to deal with Favors’ combination of power and length, allowing them to take a small lead. The Lakers’ offense sputtered, and Russell struggled to deal with Hill’s defense, allowing Utah to finish the quarter on a 10-1 run.
At halftime, Utah had the lead, 48-43.
At halftime, it was announced that Ingram would not return due to knee soreness, which means that it’s going to be a long wait until we hear an update tomorrow. Gobert started right where he left off, blocking a Young shot and then getting fouled hard on the other end. Russell got a tough foul call when he hit Gobert, which was his third.
The Lakers offense struggled, missing everything for the first four minutes with twelve straight misses. Mozgov was over-aggressive with his defense, picking up his fourth and fifth fouls in succession. The Utah offense wasn’t setting the world on fire, but they didn’t have to with as badly as the Lakers offense was playing.
Black was able to get a nice pump-fake and jumper on Gobert and then a put-back on the next play to keep the game close, but the Jazz were clearly outplaying the Lakers. With Ingram out, Lou Williams attempted to keep the Lakers in the game with his offense, hitting a three to bring the score to 61-55 with just under four minutes to play in the third.
The Lakers continued to battle back with their bench unit of Huertas, Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Black. Williams hit a big three to pull the Lakers ahead by one with just four seconds left, but then Utah stormed down the court and found Favors, who got fouled and hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 65.
The Lakers started the fourth with a mixture of their bench and starters in, going small with Russell, Williams, Clarkson, Deng, and Randle. Sloppy play from the Lakers led to a turnover as the Jazz defense continued to pester Los Angeles. Favors had his way with Randle inside, but Clarkson hit a three and Russell found Randle for a dunk to give them a lead.
Mozgov came back in to help out in the paint, and Russell and Deng hit back-to-back threes to give the Lakers a four-point lead. Unfortunately, Clarkson’s previous three was wiped off the scoreboard because his heel was out of bounds, and then Utah went on a 11-0 scoring run to take an 83-76 lead and force a timeout from Luke Walton.
Both teams went small, with Joe Johnson at power forward for Utah and Deng playing the spot for the Lakers. Young got fouled on a three out of the timeout, giving the Lakers some much-needed points. The Lakers got a stop on the other end, and a backdoor cut by Russell brought the game to within two. Utah got a free throw on the ensuing possession, and Los Angeles came up empty two trips in a row to push Utah’s lead back up to six.
A charging foul on Deng on the Lakers’ next possession put them in a tough spot, and all of the little mistakes added up to a lot of trouble. Hill got to the line and hit one of two, and it looked like the Lakers were dead in the water. Williams hit a pair of free throws, but a three from Johnson and a turnover by the Lakers made it seem like the game was over.
The Lakers did manage to get a couple of quick buckets, one from Russell and another from a cutting Deng after a Randle block brought the lead down to four, and the Jazz committed an offensive foul at the other end. Unfortunately, Russell’s three rimmed in and out, and Hill hit his free throws on the other end to put the game away.
The Lakers lost in the end, 96-89, but they fought the whole way. If not for a few silly mistakes the result could have been very different, but it’s a learning opportunity for the young Lakers.