In their penultimate matchup of the season against the Utah Jazz, the Lakers came out on top on Tuesday, 135-133. Like they have all year, the Jazz showed resiliency despite missing key players. But the Lakers survived in overtime thanks to a LeBron James’ game-winner.
The victory pushes the Lakers' winning streak to four games, and also gives the team sole possession of the sixth seed thanks to their tiebreaker over the Golden State Warriors, who are also 41-38 as of this article.
The opening quarter was tightly contested despite the Jazz being shorthanded. Austin Reaves had nine early points and Anthony Davis once again was a problem in the paint, scoring 10 points himself. Despite the strong start offensively however, the Lakers led by just one point after the first 12 minutes.
With D’Angelo Russell ruled out of the game with foot soreness, Dennis Schröder got the nod in the starting lineup. Schröder started heating up with three consecutive buckets in the second quarter and ended the night with 18 points and 4 assists.
Rui Hachimura followed up arguably his best game as Laker with another strong showing as he scored seven points in the second quarter alone to help the Lakers maintain their slim lead. He finished the night with 17 off the bench.
Despite the Jazz keeping it close for most of the first half, the Lakers created some separation heading into the half, leading 68-57.
Unfortunately, their third-quarter woes made another appearance on Tuesday as the Jazz went on an 11-0 run early in the second half to cut the lead down to just three. Jared Vanderbilt ended the run with a corner three and LeBron hit another trey from the opposite corner to give L.A. control once again.
To make matters worse, Reaves had an injury scare midway through the quarter that forced him to head to the locker room. Fortunately, he was able to return with 2:18 left in the quarter.
Utah trailed for the majority of the game but stayed close until a Luka Semanic dunk with 9:53 left in the game gave them the lead. However, Davis’ return helped the Lakers regain control. The final five minutes saw a whole lot of James and Davis, and suddenly their lead ballooned back up to double digits. But Utah just wouldn't go away.
After a 10-0 run in the final minute, the game was miraculously tied after a pair of free-throws from former Laker Damian Jones. James had a chance to win the game at the buzzer but missed his layup attempt which sent the teams to overtime.
The extra period was a whirlwind. With the score tied at 129, Kelly Olynk hit another clutch three to give Utah the lead with 90 seconds left. Reaves responded with a jumper and after an offensive foul by Utah L.A. had the ball back. James was fouled on his drive and converted both free throws to regain the lead.
The Lakers had to foul Talen-Horton Tucker after a blown defensive possession and the game was tied once again with 35 seconds left. Finally, James bulldozed his way to the rim to score and finally put the game away.
It may not have been pretty, but wins at this stage are worth their weight in gold. The Lakers continue to climb the standings and build momentum as they head into a huge matchup against their crosstown rival, the Los Angeles Clippers.
According to Clippers’ head coach Ty Lue, this is the “first meaningful game” between the two teams as they’ve never played against each other in a postseason scenario.
With both teams sitting at 41-38, and just a few games left, it’s hard to argue this opinion. The Lakers’ biggest question mark is whether their big three will be available in the back-to-back. Russell missed tonight and while there is an assumption Davis and James will play, there are never guarantees when it comes to this team and health.
Lakers Nation will be waiting on bated breath for updates as the biggest game of the year is less than 24 hours away.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.