After his team scrapped in enemy territory against a Utah squad projected by most as playoff-bound, Luke Walton said that the young Lakers should take away the knowledge “that it sucks to lose.”
The Jazz (1-1) pulled away late for a 96-89 win over the Lakers (1-1), who dropped their first road game of the season.
While D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle all shined in Wednesday’s season-opening win, the trio struggled in Salt Lake City.
Russell made some nice plays with five assists and five rebounds, but shot just 3-of-14 for nine points. Meanwhile, the other two combined for only 11 points on a 5-of-16 clip.
“I don’t think the starters were playing selfish; they just weren’t playing as a unit,” Walton said. “There was a disconnect on offense and defense. Utah’s a great defensive team, so if you get stagnant against them, you’re gonna struggle to get good shots.”
Indeed, after piling up 120 points against Houston on Wednesday, the Lakers struggled to hit 38.1 percent of their shots against Utah, which held the purple and gold to both of their lowest scoring outputs of last season.
However, Los Angeles managed to stay in it with some defense of its own, holding the Jazz to just a 41.3 percent mark.
After a 16-1 Utah run gave the Jazz a 54-43 lead early in the third quarter, the Lakers managed to swing back. Thanks to a couple 3-pointers by Lou Williams — who led the team with 17 points and six assists — L.A. finished with a 15-4 burst that tied the game at 65 heading to the final period.
The Lakers nearly carried that momentum all the way through, taking a 76-72 lead with eight minutes remaining before Utah overwhelmed them with 11 unanswered points.
Randle said that the Lakers “felt like we were the better team,” and Williams was pleased with the way they approached the game.
“You’ve got to be encouraged by how guys are playing,” Williams said. “We’re building our identity here and the ball’s flying around, and defensively we turned up our intensity. We just couldn’t get it done.”
A large reason for that was the play of Utah’s frontcourt monsters, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, who combined for 11 offensive rebounds.
Gobert provided 13 points and 13 rebounds while keeping the Lakers on edge down low with his world-class rim protection, adding four blocks to his toal.
Meanwhile, Favors — who missed Utah’s season opener due to a bone bruise on his left knee — looked plenty healthy with 15 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes.
Walton briefly countered with Tarik Black, who played excellently by tallying eight points and seven rebounds (four offensive) in only 10 minutes.
But Utah — despite missing leading scorer Gordon Hayward (finger fracture) — also had George Hill (23 points) and Rodney Hood (15) step up.
Considering that the Jazz took 40 free throws — 19 more than L.A. — the Lakers simply didn’t have enough offense to pull out the win, even though Luol Deng notched a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double in his second game in purple and gold.
Brandon Ingram’s first road trip was quickly grounded, as the second-overall pick played only four minutes before sitting the rest of the night due to a sore right knee.
The 19-year-old knocked down a mid-range jumper in the first quarter, but was hurt on defense on a non-contact play shortly after. After being attended to in the locker room, he returned in the second but checked out after only three minutes, saying that he felt a bit of pain when running.
Ingram will not need an MRI or X-Ray, but he will see the Lakers’ training staff before practicing on Saturday. He said it’s “nothing too serious” and aims to play in Oklahoma City on Sunday, while his coach is preaching caution.
“There’s no way we’re going to get him out there playing again until we know there’s nothing wrong with his knee,” Walton said.
Nick Young scored eight of his 13 points in the first quarter. … The game featured 20 lead changes and 12 ties. … A sold-out crowd of 19,911 filled Vivint Smart Home Arena for the Jazz’s home opener.