SALT LAKE CITY — A young NBA team will certainly experience its ups and its downs. After a pair of ups, the Utah Jazz suffered a down, losing to an injury-ridden Los Angeles Lakers squad, 100-97, Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
Why the Jazz lost: While the Jazz held the lead for much of the game, they squandered it in the fourth quarter, thanks to some sloppy execution, missed free throws and costly turnovers. The Lakers were the aggressors down the stretch, making the plays they needed to in order to steal the win on the road. Their spirited play easily erased Utah’s nine-point lead after three quarters.
Turning point: A pair of Jordans — veteran big man Jordan Hill and rookie newcomer Jordan Clarkson — did much of the damage for Los Angeles. They snagged important rebounds, stole the ball at opportune moments and threw down some emphatic dunks. The duo’s play, particularly in the fourth quarter, was integral the game’s outcome.
What it means: After a pair of very impressive wins over the Portland Trail Blazers and the San Antonio Spurs, Wednesday’s outcome was quite disappointing. It serves as a mini wake-up call of sorts. While the Jazz have taken great strides to improve over the past few months, their youth is still susceptible to lapses. A team cannot afford to lose the sense of urgency that has helped them as of late. Hopefully, head coach Quin Snyder and his team will learn from this loss.
Grading the performance: The Jazz had some strong individual performances. Rudy Gobert continues to turn heads, posting 16 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots. Gordon Hayward set the tone early with 16 first-half points. The Lakers contained him in the second, which was instrumental. Utah’s 20 turnovers were extremely damaging, and LA scored 22 points as a result. Twelve missed free throws also factored into Utah's narrow loss.
Utah Jazz grade: C-
Los Angeles played sans much of its firepower. In addition to the noticeable absence of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers were also missing streak shooter Nick Young and scrappy former Jazzman Ronnie Price. No worries at all, however, as several players stepped up. Clarkson had the best outing of his career in tallying 22 points. Hill, Ed Davis and Wayne Ellington also had nice games, while former Utah All-Star Carlos Boozer chipped in 14 points. It was a much-needed win for an LA team that has been struggling.
Los Angeles Lakers grade: B+
Three telling stats:
— The Lakers only committed nine turnovers, leading to seven points for the Jazz. As a result, Los Angeles was +15 in points scored off miscues.
— The Lakers attempted 16 more shots than Utah. It is hard to win when the opponent is getting that many more attempts, especially with errant free-throw shooting.
— Not a game stat, but thanks to last week’s trade and a pair of signings Wednesday, Utah suited up seven rookies: Dante Exum, Joe Ingles, Rodney Hood, Elijah Millsap, Bryce Cotton, Joe Cooley and Grant Jerrett.
Up next: The Jazz will be back on the road Friday at Denver. The Nuggets are a dramatically different team than the last match-up after taking full advantage of last week’s trade deadline.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.