LOS ANGELES — After suffering a 113-109 loss to the shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder didn’t shy away from the fact that he felt the team lacked a sense of urgency.
After winning seven consecutive games and a dozen of their last 14, Sunday’s loss was a reminder that the team still has work to do even with just two games remaining in the regular season and a playoff spot secure.
“We’ve won some games so sometimes that masks some things we’re not doing,” Snyder admitted. “But fundamentally, the things that we need to do to win — we played defense tonight in the second quarter. We’ve had games like that.
“We played defense in the third quarter against Atlanta. If that’s not our focus, we’re not going to be as good as we want to be,” he continued. “That simple. It’s not something I think we’re unfamiliar with. That’s been a tendency this year for us. We get ahead and forget why we got ahead or why we’ve been successful. Those are things that everybody has to hold onto really tight.”
Los Angeles suited up just eight players, with Lance Stephenson, Kyle Kuzma and LeBron James all cheering from the sidelines in street clothes.
James (sore left groin), Stephenson (sore left foot), Kuzma (left foot), Lonzo Ball (left ankle sprain), Reggie Bullock (neck stiffness), Josh Hart (right knee) and Brandon Ingram (thoracic outlet decompression surgery) were all inactive with injuries.
The Jazz were also shorthanded without Derrick Favors (back spasms), Kyle Korver (right knee soreness), Raul Neto (left ankle soreness), Ricky Rubio (left quad contusion) and Dante Exum (right knee surgery) but saw their win streak snapped.
Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope took over down the stretch with 18 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter. Alex Caruso also finished with 18 points and 11 assists while JaVale McGee scored 22 points with eight rebounds, including a lob dunk from Caldwell-Pope with 15.6 seconds remaining to stop the Jazz’s late run and put the Lakers up by 5.
“They outplayed us,” Snyder said. “They worked harder and they got rewarded and that’s the way the game is and that’s the way it should be.”
Utah went up by as many as 10 in the third before the Lakers used a 22-9 run to pull ahead and the mental focus disappeared down the stretch. Jazz forward Georges Niang ended with a career-best 16 points off the bench but praised the hungry Lakers roster for bringing it to them on a night where many counted them out.
“Obviously, they’re a hungry team. They have young guys and older guys that are playing for contracts so they’re coming out playing pretty hard,” Niang said. “They definitely hit us in the first couple minutes, but I think we did a good job of bouncing back and having resolve but the second time they hit us after we gave up that 10-point lead we just couldn’t quite recover.”
Rudy Gobert led the Jazz with 21 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks while Donovan Mitchell scored 19 points on 5-for-17 shooting with five assists. Utah started 1-for-9 from 3 in the opening quarter before catching fire in the second quarter, nailing seven of their 14 triples while shooting 55 percent as a team, to lead 59-54 at halftime.
Through three quarters, the Jazz were still ahead 83-81 before shooting 33.3 percent in the fourth and allowing Caldwell-Pope to get hot.
Snyder was visibly disappointed with the loss but more importantly with how they played during the loss. Utah (49-31) will host Denver in their final home game on Tuesday at Vivint Arena before returning to Los Angeles to face the Clippers in the regular season finale on Wednesday night.
Utah certainly wants to close the season strong.5 comments on this story
“Everybody’s talking about (how) we’ve won eight, nine in a row or whatever,” Snyder said. “That doesn’t mean anything. We’ve tried to talk about playing well and getting better. Hopefully we get better from something like this and recognize again, but I think it wasn’t that tonight."
“We gave up 34 points in the first quarter and then we gave up 20 in the second,” he added. “We started to guard, but we weren’t consistent with it. Whether it’s a seeding situation — to me, it’s our play regardless of where you’re seeded — you have to play well and play a certain way to win.”