Fittingly for a game the majority of the country missed in favor of the NCAA tournament, the Lakers Friday night game against the Utah Jazz had a collegiate feel to it, both in the low scoring first half, and a trio of Lakers rookies leading the way for the team.
The Jazz held an 18-16 lead after the first 12 minutes, with both teams resembling the college teams that had played all day before them, clanking open jumper after open jumper en route to neither of them shooting above 40% in the game's first frame.
Speaking of college basketball, one can only shudder to think of how low scoring this game would have been were it played with a 35 second shot clock, as the two teams barely cracked 30 points each in the first half. The Lakers lead 36-33 after the Jazz missed their final 10 shots of the half. Tarik Black led the way for LA in the first half, scoring 7 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, even dunking on Jazz shot blocker extraordinaire Rudy Gobert. Twice.
Black would save his biggest dunk on Gobert for the third quarter however, slamming on the Frenchman with authority just like we all predicted going into this game. Blacks post-dunk staredown of Gobert seemed to spark the Jazz, who outscored the Lakers 25-19 during on of LA's trademark 3rd quarter letdowns. Gobert blocked Black twice, and Gordon Hayward began to heat up during the Jazz run headed into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was back and fourth affair, featuring several lead changes. With two minutes remaining, Trey Burke hit a layup, followed by a jumper, pushing the Jazz to a 76-71 lead. The Jazz lead was increased to 78-71 after Hayward (22 points on 10 shots, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 1 block in a well rounded effort) converted two free throws with 1 minute remaining, giving the Jazz their ultimate margin of victory.
Australian Joe Ingles had a G'day for the Jazz, knocking down 3 of his 5 three point attempts to aid in the Jazz's spacing, spacing that Derrick Favors took advantage of to score 14 points on 15 shots with 7 rebounds.
For the Lakers, Jordan Clarkson only scored 8 points on 7 shots, but led the Lakers in assists with 8, while once again outplaying his fellow rookie Dante Exum (0 points, 2 assists, 4 turnovers). Black (13 points on 12 shots with 10 rebounds) and Brown (7 points, 2-2 three pointers, 19 minutes) made it a triumvirate of good games by Lakers rookies.
It was nice to see the Lakers younger players play so well on a day that most spent watching the organization's potential future lottery selections, with the loss aiding in their chances of keeping their top 5 draft selection. The team next will face the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, in a game that could go a long way towards determining whether their lottery choice will be made by Mitch Kupchak or Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkie.
Enjoy March Madness everyone.