The Lakers looked a lot more rested as they opened the fifth preseason game Sunday night against the Utah Jazz. The purple and gold lost their last meeting with the Jazz Thursday night by 33 with 5 key injuries proving to be a huge factor as the Lakers had no answer for their lack of penetration and three point shooting.
All five injured players, Nash, Young, Lin, Clarkson, and Henry, also sat out Sunday nights game but are very close to returning to action and are expected back at 100% health by the beginning of the regular season.
The Jazz were without starting point guard Trey Burke, meaning prized rookie Dante Exum got to see some extended time on the floor.
Los Angeles came out looking a lot smoother as they were more fluid and accurate in their half-court offense. They also showed rejuvenated legs securing multiple offensive rebounds including a great hustle tip in play from Jordan Hill off a Carlos Boozer miss. The defensive intensity was also present creating a couple Jazz turnovers early on. Utah got back on track as they went on a 10-2 run until Kobe hit nothing but net from 18 feet to lower the deficit to 11-9 with a little under seven minutes remaining. Boozer continued to be aggressive as he showed his solid footwork for a nice layup inside. Bryant made up for a lapse on the defensive end, where he left his man allowing a wide open three, and hit another turnaround jumper to make it 18-13. As the quarter dwindled down to the final two minutes the reserves began to sub in as Utah increased their lead to ten, 27-17. Unlike the Lakers, Utah had no problem scoring from beyond the arc as they hit consecutive threes and finishing three for six in the quarter. Kobe led the lakers with six points as the Lakers trailed the Jazz 32-20 to end the first 12 minutes of play.
Roscoe Smith, Sacre, Ellington, Randle, and Wesley Johnson opened up the second quarter for Lakers and continued their overall team effort on defense. Johnson showed a nice jumper but the offense went on a drought allowing the Jazz to increase their lead 38-22 with a little over eight minutes remaining in the half. Utah continued to take it to the Lakers and Rudy Gobert was a nightmare for the Lakers as he racked up back to back blocks as the lead rose to 19 after an 11-0 run. Kobe came up huge with a long three pointer, the first for LA in three games. Kobe continued to make a difference as he used an iso to set up a nice behind the back pass to Boozer who drove in strong and finished with a layup leading to a Utah timeout as the Lakers climbed back within 16. Gobert continued to haunt the Lakers as he blocked Kobe on a mid range shot but Bryant came right back down and his second three pointer of the half. Other than number 24, the Lakers continued their struggles on the offensive end as the lack of penetration and low shooting percentage continued to plague the team. Boozer continued his strong performance on another and-one of another pass from Kobe. Bryant took a page out of Boozers playbook and had his own and-one the very next possession down the floor with his patented jump fake. Kobe ended the half with an air ball but 15 points to lead the Lakers to close the half down 54-38. Boozer also finished off strong with nine points and four rebounds.
The Lakers starters went out to start the second half and Hill and Boozer followed a free throw from Bryant with back-to-back mid-range jumpers to give the Lakers somewhat of a scoring threat from their frontcourt players. The Lakers were given opportunities by the Jazz, as two of their young athletes were called for back-to-back travels. The Lakers capitalized and went on a 17-2 run to tie the game at 57 points thanks in large part to the activity of Price. The Lakers took their first lead of the second half after Johnson stripped Exum and took it the rest of the way for a dynamic dunk. The Jazz finally ended the run and with a couple of late baskets were able to retake the lead, 72-69 heading into the final quarter, but momentum was clearly on the Lakers side.
The Lakers started off the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run to take a four point lead. Both teams began trading baskets as Julius Randle came alive, attacking the basket at will. The Jazz, however, remained hot from the three-point line and back-to-back triples gave them a two-point lead. The defensive intensity rolled over from the third quarter as Randle and Davis did a solid job of protecting the rim. The Lakers continued their best half of preseason basketball behind Randle’s excellent play. A Wayne Ellington three-pointer pushed the Lakers lead to six with three minutes remaining. The Lakers defense was easily the best its been in the preseason and they continued that throughout the game forcing the Jazz into a number of turnovers in the quarter. The Lakers pushed the lead out to nine with only a minute remaining and held on down the stretch to defeat the Jazz 98-91.
Lakers Post-Game: Carlos Boozer “We Have To Be Gritty This Year If We Want To Win”