LeBron-less Lakers drop road game to Jazz


SALT LAKE CITY — It’s only been a few times so far this season, but the question the Lakers face whenever they’re without LeBron James is how will they fare without their star forward – especially offensively.

So far this season: fairly well, with Saturday’s matchup against the Utah Jazz not being any different despite Anthony Davis struggling with his shot (15 points on 5-of-21 shooting) and ball security (six turnovers).

But as has been the case recently, it was the other end of the floor where the Lakers struggled, with the team falling to the red-hot Jazz 132-125 at Delta Center to continue their slide since winning the In-Season Tournament over a month ago.

“We played two-thirds of a good, really good basketball game, three-fourths, whatever you want to say,” coach Darvin Ham said. “And then we just, the fouls got away from us. We only had 12 turnovers, which is really, it’s good compared to the way we’ve been turning the ball over. But they were able to capitalize on a ton of them.”

And there wasn’t a play that encapsulated the Lakers’ recent struggles than the one that allowed the Jazz to take an 11-point lead in the fourth – their largest lead of the game.

After Christian Wood forced Jordan Clarkson to miss a layup, Davis rebounded the ball inside the paint and connected with D’Angelo Russell on a hit-ahead pass past halfcourt to spark a transition opportunity.
Russell drew two defenders near the rim, but his pass to a trailing Skylar Mays was off target, leading to Lauri Markkanen grabbing the steal, passing to Clarkson near the 3-point line, with Clarkson throwing a lob to Collin Sexton for an alley-oop to give the Jazz a 120-109 lead with 4:19 remaining.

“When you have live-ball turnovers, it’s hard to defend that,” Davis said. “We turn it over and they get out and run and they made us pay for it.”
The Lakers (19-21) kept fighting but didn’t cut their deficit any lower than seven in the final four minutes for their sixth loss in their last eight games and 12th in their last 17.


The Jazz (21-20), who were led by Markkanen’s 29 points, nine rebounds and five assists, moved to above .500 for the first time this season with the victory, their 14th in their last 18 games.
The Lakers were rolling pretty much all game offensively, scoring at least 28 points in every quarter, including 39 in the first – the most points they’ve scored in an opening quarter this season.

Russell, who scored a season-high 39 points on 15-of-26 shooting to go with eight assists and two blocks, had one of his best games of the season. Austin Reaves had 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting in 31 minutes before fouling out with 5:03 remaining.

Saturday was the first time Russell and Reaves started in the backcourt together since Nov. 8 after being the starting backcourt for this season’s first eight games and the bulk of the Lakers’ playoff run last spring. The Lakers shot 50% (46 of 92) from the field and 44.8% (13 of 29) on 3s.

“We got a lot of credibility in the short stint that we have together,” Russell said. “So you put us out there, it works.”

The Lakers’ bench, led by the returning Rui Hachimura (17 points in 19 minutes) and Christian Wood (15 points and nine rebounds) helped make up for James’ absence and Davis’s struggles.

“I just told him to go out and play as hard as you can for as long as you can,” Ham said of Hachimura, who was on a minutes restriction. “We went into the game with the plan. But it was great to see him back out there and great to see him performing. Not hesitant, not apprehensive. Just being assertive and aggressive throughout.”
But the Lakers’ transition defense (23 points allowed off 12 turnovers and 27 fastbreak points allowed) and fouling (23 fouls, 39 free throws attempted for the Jazz) upended them. The Jazz took 31 free throws in the second half.

But the Lakers’ transition defense (23 points allowed off 12 turnovers and 27 fastbreak points allowed) and fouling (23 fouls, 39 free throws attempted for the Jazz) upended them. The Jazz took 31 free throws in the second half.

“I have to go back and look at the tape to be 100% sure,” Ham said. “But from my vantage point, I just see guys going to the basket, our guys are not disrupting their path. Most times we’re showing our hands or even if it’s only one hand up, the other hand is tucked. And now guys can just throw themselves into you, throw the ball up to the rim and it’s a foul.

“So it is what it is. I felt like we had some tick-tacky ones. I was looking back at our replay guys [who] usually give me the signal whether or not we want to challenge. And they were all telling me in unison not to challenge a bunch of those calls. So apparently we must have been fouling. But my vantage point, it’s a slippery slope. Because then the same thing happens on the other end, then there’s no call. And now you’re kinda…we say mental toughness, you got to have mental toughness. You have to be able to play through adversity. And a lot of times when that whistle gets active like that, creates a lot of adversity.”

In addition to his scoring total, Davis also had a career-high 11 assists to go with 15 rebounds for the second triple-double of his career and his first points/rebounds/assist triple-double.

“Everyone did their job except me,” Davis said. “I didn’t do my job. Obviously, Bron was out and everyone has to step up and those guys did. Except myself. So this one’s on me.”

Cam Reddish played 11 first-half minutes before being ruled out for the second half because of left knee soreness. It was the second consecutive game Reddish missed a second half because of the knee ailment.

“We’ll get him looked at, he’s actually being looked at now,” Ham said, “and have a definitive plan by Monday going forward with what’s going on with him.”

The Lakers will return to Los Angeles for another six games in Southern California (one a “road game” against the Clippers), starting with hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.

“We still have enough to win basketball games,” Davis said. “Even though Bron doesn’t play, we have enough to win. But we just got to keep going – 42 [games] left. We got to make a push. These next five or six games at home are going to be a big stretch of games for us.”


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