Kyle Kuzma vs. Utah
Kyle Kuzma shoots against the Utah Jazz on March 27, 2019.
(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

Lakers Unable to Crack Utah's Defense

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

With LeBron James given a day of treatment back in L.A., the remaining skeleton crew of Lakers struggled to find any rhythm in Salt Lake City.

James — officially out due to “load management/groin” — joined a six-man list of inactive Lakers, while the remaining purple and gold fell to the Utah Jazz, 115-100.

The Lakers never led, as they could not muster much scoring against Utah’s second-ranked defense. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, L.A. hit just 38.1 percent of its shots.

Kyle Kuzma did lead his team with 21 points, while JaVale McGee had a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double, yet their fellow starters found no such fortune.

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Rajon Rondo (1-of-11), Lance Stephenson (3-of-11) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (2-of-9) made only 19 percent of their attempts, as Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert completely walled off the paint.

While much of their struggle could be traced to LeBron’s absence, the Lakers (33-42) were cut off from major parts of their identity.

With Gobert leading the way, the Jazz (45-30) had monster advantages in points in the paint (58-38) and fast-break points (16-2) — two areas that the Lakers’ offense ranks second in the NBA.

Gobert also powered Utah on the other end, putting up 22 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 9-of-12 from the field. Fellow big Derrick Favors also feasted, scoring 20 points on a 9-of-13 clip.

And Joe Ingles served as the Jazz’s engine, tallying 11 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. While he came just one board shy of Utah’s first regular-season triple-double in 11 years, Ingles exited to much fanfare as he keyed his team’s eighth win in nine games.

Alex Caruso had several highlights, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, alley-oop slam and between-the-legs assist. … The Lakers committed only six turnovers. … Utah led by as many as 22 points. … The Jazz had 34 assists on 41 field goals.

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