Three Things to Know

Lakers vs. Jazz: Three Things to Know (8/3/20)

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

After the Lakers beat the Clippers in their first seeding game, they lost to Toronto on Saturday night to keep their magic number at one to clinch the No. 1 seed in the West. Below are three things you need to know heading into Monday’s game against Utah:

IT’S THE SHOOTING!
If you’re looking for just one reason why the Lakers lost to the Raptors, here it is: they couldn’t hit open shots. The Lakers missed all but 10 of the 40 3-pointers they attempted, many of which were wide open. I asked LeBron James after the game if they can do anything differently when shots aren’t falling against a team like Toronto that packs the paint and doesn’t commit many fouls: "I don't think there is anything you can do better,” he said. We went 10-40 from (3). We just have to step up and knock them down."

Frank Vogel had one explanation for the lack of shooting: the Lakers have been competing really hard defensively, and since they’re still just returning to full court NBA competition, some guys have yet to really get their game legs going. This has seemed less an issue for some of the younger guys like Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso, both who have been shooting well. Veterans like Danny Green (0 for 6) and Markieff Morris (0 for 5) struggled, meanwhile.

Kyle Kuzma

MATCHING UP WITH UTAH
One of the first direct examples of Frank Vogel’s in-game effectiveness came way back on Oct. 25, the second game of the season, when the Lakers held a six-point lead at halftime against Utah at home. Vogel saw something in the matchup with Rudy Gobert clogging the paint, and decided to start the second half with Anthony Davis at the five. L.A. responded with a 31-18 push in the 3rd Q that locked in a win, with Gobert rendered much less impactful. A month later, the Lakers crushed the Jazz in Utah, jumping to a 34-26 first quarter lead, and a 65-47 margin before cruising to a 121-96 win. Those were the only two games between the squads this season.

SPACING AND SCREENING
While Vogel’s been pretty satisfied with how the Lakers are competing defensively in Orlando, he acknowledged that the offense needs some fine tuning to get back to where they’d like to get. The two areas he specifically cited were floor spacing and setting screens. Especially against the Raptors, the Lakers did not do a good job of securing solid screens to free up their teammates for cleaner shots, or cleaner paths around the floor. Meanwhile, they also weren’t properly spaced around the perimeter, also limiting the output. In fact, the Lakers have dropped from fourth down to eighth in offensive efficiency since the season resumed. They were at 112.6 on March 10, but they’ve dropped down to 112.0.

This, however, mirrors what happened in the regular season, when the Lakers came out extremely well on the defensive end, before the offense eventually caught up once things got humming. In fact, their defense was No. 1 for much of the first two months of the season before finishing at No. 3 (and part of that is due to the more difficult opposition in the West than No. 1 Milwaukee and No. 2 Toronto faced in the East). Meanwhile, through Nov. 15, a month into the season, the offense was ranked 12th before it eventually climbed up to No. 4.

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