A few members of the Los Angeles Lakers went to an escape room in Utah on Thursday night and didn’t make it out before time ran out. Vivint Smart Home Arena proved to be just as perilous of a trap, and L.A. couldn’t escape with a win as they watched all their efforts at efficient offense get drowned out by the Jazz, losing 113-95 to fall to 3-6 since LeBron James got hurt.
The Lakers entered Utah on a two-game winning streak and seemed to have found strategies for some success without James, but Friday night’s loss showed why they need their star. The Jazz did an excellent job of stifling L.A.’s other options, getting in the Lakers’ jerseys all night and taking advantage of James’ absence to play one-on-one defense on a string all over the floor.
Seriously, the first half was so bad that I slowly lost my mind and tried to fix the awful Jack in the Box commercial they always show on Spectrum Sportsnet:
I fixed the Jack in the Box commercial. Crazy how well this lines up pic.twitter.com/YWkvWzeIwX— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) January 12, 2019
Things got a little better from there, as the Lakers went on a 10-0 run fueled by a tremendous display of leadership and energy by Lonzo Ball (who finished with 7 points, 6 assists, 7 rebounds, some of the only good defense of any Laker and the best plus-minus of any starter) towards the end of the third quarter.
Plus-minus isn't a perfect stat but man Lonzo was really the only starter who brought it tonight. pic.twitter.com/CdeQ3NJOx7— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) January 12, 2019
The Lakers cut the Jazz’s lead to as little as nine points during that brief stretch, but then Ball picked up his fifth foul and the Jazz answered with a 5-0 run that culminated in Brandon Ingram (15 points on 6-11 shooting) missing an isolation mid-range jumper at the third quarter buzzer.
Those shooting problems were team-wide. Kyle Kuzma cooled off, missing all eight of his shots in the first half (and first 10 overall) after going for a career-high 41 points two nights ago. Kuzma ultimately finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds on 4-18 shooting.
The Lakers as a team shot 35.3 percent from the field and 18.5 percent from 3-point range, which just isn’t going to get it done in the 2019 NBA. Or any NBA, really.
Making matters worse, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell popped for 33 points on 24 shots against a lackadaisical Lakers defense. The Lakers just didn’t have anyone who could keep up, something that’s been mostly true since James went down.
The Lakers will have to go back to the drawing board while searching for ways to win without their King when they make a pit stop back at home to host James’ old Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. Their normal slow Sunday starts aside, it seems almost impossible this attempt can go worse than their Friday one.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.