The Los Angeles Lakers looked to build off Sunday’s preseason win when they hosted the Utah Jazz at Staples Center Tuesday night.
Unfortunately, they were once again without starting point guard Lonzo Ball, who continues to nurse his sprained ankle. Andrew Bogut also missed the game with a groin injury.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton started Larry Nance Jr. at power forward for the second straight game, seeing how the pairing with Brook Lopez in the frontcourt would work out.
They faced a tough challenge in the Jazz, although they lost All-Star Gordon Hayward this summer. They did add Ricky Rubio and a promising young rookie in Donovan Mitchell though, so they figure to once again be in the postseason picture this season.
With the spotlight on him to see if he could perform in the starting lineup, Nance came out like a man on a mission in the first quarter. He was flying all around the court, blocking shots, getting rebounds and running the floor resulting in easy dunks. Nance had seven first-quarter points on 3-of-4 shooting to go along with two rebounds and a block.
The Jazz were one of the best defensive teams in the NBA last season, so the Lakers had their work cut out for them. The key to a good offense though is a good defense, and the Lakers turned three first-quarter steals into easy scores.
The second unit, led by Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson closed the quarter strong, but the Lakers still trailed 28-27 after one quarter.
The Lakers began the second quarter with a very young unit on the floor, and they played with a very high energy to begin the quarter. Early in the second quarter Alex Caruso was already up to five assists, as he was running Walton’s offense adequately, finding teammates open looks.
One thing that the Lakers coaching staff and front office had to be impressed with in the second quarter was the young Lakers effort on the defensive end. That hasn’t always been the case this preseason so it was nice to see players like Jordan Clarkson and Josh Hart jumping passing lanes and keeping their man in front of them.
The teams exchanged baskets and stops for much of the second quarter, with no team taking a lead larger than five. The Jazz closed the quarter on a 6-0 run though and took a 52-49 lead into the halftime locker room.
A few Lakers that have struggled so far this preseason, Ingram, Tyler Ennis and Nance got off to a good start in the third quarter. Ingram made a nice defensive play, coming away with a steal and found a wide-open Lopez for a three.
Keeping up with a playoff team like the Jazz has to be considered a win for Walton and his young team, and that’s what they continued to do for most of the third quarter, showing flashes on both sides of the ball but still making still mistakes at times like all young teams do.
Towards the end of the third quarter, the Lakers offense began to stall, but Kyle Kuzma broke a long scoring drought by knocking down a three.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert was just about unstoppable in the third quarter, either scoring at the rim or getting to the free throw line every time he touched the ball.
The Lakers bench unit led by Caruso and Kuzma had a nice run at the end of the quarter, building a four-point lead. But Donovan Mitchell completed a three-point play and Joe Johnson hit a three to close out the quarter and Utah led 79-77 after three.
The Lakers bench unit stayed on the floor to begin the fourth quarter and continued to compete at a high level as Caruso found Kuzma for a three and Clarkson knocked down a midrange jumper to take a 82-79 lead.
As good a the rookie Kuzma was for the Lakers, the Jazz rookie Mitchell was equally as impressive, showing that he could be a star in this league.
A steal by Clarkson led to a three-point play, which gave the Lakers their largest lead of the game at 90-83 with a little over seven minutes to play.
Being the good team that they are, the Jazz had a run in them and tied the game with three minutes to play on a putback dunk by Gobert. To counteract Gobert’s dominance, Walton inserted Lopez back in the lineup to close out the game. He closed out the game with three rookies in Kuzma, Hart and Caruso along with Ingram.
The Lakers’ inexperience proved to their downfall Tuesday night, as Ingram tried to force it a little too much in crunch time. Thr Jazz closed the game on a 7-0 run, and came away with a 105-99 victory.
Kuzma and Clarkson both led the Lakers with 18 points apiece, while Randle and Ingram both contributed 13 points in the loss.