After three games in four nights the Lakers will finally get a break today. They finished this stretch 1-2 with a win over the Wizards and losses to the Raptors and Jazz.
These were all winnable games for the Lakers. Against Toronto, they built a 17-point lead then gave it away with sloppy transition defense and turnovers.
Against Utah, they won most of the statistical categories, but fell victim to a great game by Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s 96-81 loss to the Utah Jazz.
1.) Lonzo Ball hates losing. That might seem like an obvious quality for an NBA player, but I’m here to tell you that it is not. It is a quality teams need from players in a rebuild, because otherwise there’s a danger that players become complacent. Ball was very hard on himself after Saturday’s game, shouldering the blame for that loss. Ball felt that the two plays that turned the game were his fault, and when he spoke after the game that responsibility weighed on him. He clearly felt that he let down his teammates.
2.) Lakers coach Luke Walton is not the type of coach who would blame a loss on an individual player, but he did talk to the team after the game about two plays he felt turned the momentum of the game — the 5-0 run put together by Utah’s Donovan Mitchell with his put-back dunk and three-pointer gave the Jazz an 11-point lead. It was more than that, though. The Lakers got within five of the Jazz with Mitchell out of the game in the fourth quarter. When he returned, he had the confidence to help his team over the hump. He scored seven points late in the fourth, more than any other player.
3.) The Lakers had trouble with the Jazz players’ size. That’s been a theme so far this season. They struggled with teams that have size, like the Clippers and like the Pelicans. A big interior also makes it harder for Lonzo Ball to rebound, which he loves to do. Jazz center Rudy Gobert didn’t score much, but he had three blocked shots and a plus/minus rating of 22. The Lakers really like their small lineup, which features Julius Randle as the center, but it gets tougher against a team like this.
4.) The Lakers bested the Jazz in points in the paint, fast break points, second chance points and turnovers.
5.) Three-point shooting has been a big problem for the Lakers through six games. Against the Raptors, the Lakers made only three of 23 three-point attempts. Against the Jazz, the Lakers made only five of 22 three-point attempts. Walton knows the Lakers don’t have the shooters to take as many threes as they do. “One of our big things going into every game is trying to attack the paint,” Walton said. “… I know the modern NBA is everyone shoots 40 threes a game, but that’s not what we’re trying to do. If we’re open and it’s a rhythm pass and we’ve got some ball movement side to side, inside out. Love it. You catch it in rhythm, let it fly. But we don’t want to just come down and jack up threes all game. That’s not our strength.”
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