Another game, another new lineup. With the Lakers playing on the second night of a back-to-back, some new injuries popped up. LeBron was out with left foot soreness, and Lonnie Walker and Patrick Beverley missed the matchup due to a non-covid illness. This meant Darvin Ham had even less to work with, and had to experiment once again on a starting lineup. He opted for a combination of Troy Brown Jr., Wenyen Gabriel, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves and Kendrick Nunn.
With LeBron out, the load for Anthony Davis got even heavier, but to start the game, he carried it with ease. Lauri Markkanen and Kelly Olynyk had zero answers for AD early, who went 5-6 from the field, and Russell Westbrook continued his top form. Coming off the bench, Westbrook scored 10 points and was 2-2 from three. The contributions by AD and Russ were mitigated by former Baby Laker Jordan Clarkson scoring 15 points in the first quarter, along with the rest of the Jazz being red-hot from the field, shooting 68%. The Lakers went into the second quarter down by eight.
In the second, the Lakers fell by as many as eleven but fought back with a try-hard group consisting of Russ, Christie, Troy Brown Jr., Reaves, and Wenyen. The unit went on a 9-2 run with AD on the bench. When Anthony Davis did return, he continued to dominate Lauri and Olynk; he ended the quarter with 19 points as the Lakers trailed by five entering the halftime break.
But second halves — and especially third quarters — have been nightmarish for the Lakers all season long. They’ve only won the third quarter once, and for whatever reason, Anthony Davis seems to disappear in the second half of games. With Monday’s game hanging in the balance, how did the Lakers respond? By letting the Jazz start the quarter on a 10-2 run.
The team settled down a bit after the run, with Davis staying aggressive and scoring six in the quarter, but midway through the third, the Jazz got a couple of baskets in the paint, followed by a Colin Sexton three, and Darvin Ham called for time to stop the bleeding. The timeout only slowed down the inevitable loss, however, as the Jazz ran away with the third frame, outsourcing the Lakers 39-27 and essentially ending the game.
With no real way to overcome a 17-point deficit, the fourth was a garbage time bonanza with the Anthony Davis being subbed out at the 7:09 min mark and never returning. Adding salt to the wounds were former Lakers Jordan Clarkson and Talen Horton-Tucker. JC ended the night with 22 points, and THT posterized Damian Jones and was hitting midrange jumpers like he was 98’ MJ in the Finals.
Even in the darkness that has been the 2022/23 Laker season, you can find rays of light. Max Christie looked great, especially in the first half. He ended the night with 8 points and 1 rebound. It looks like his brief South Bay Lakers stint did him well.
And while Wenyen Gabriel may not be a spectacular offensive weapon, he’s been doing all the little things. Hustling for loose balls, protecting the rim, and setting screens. He’s proven to be a one or two-shift per night player and an option Ham can go to at the five if he wants to go big and put AD at the four.
The Lakers play next on Wednesday against the “deepest team in the league,” the Los Angeles Clippers. Hopefully, the team can get back a couple of the players missing and get a much-needed win.