Facing the league’s best defense on the second night of back-to-back, the Lakers ended up like most teams in this situation.
Los Angeles was held to its lowest point total of the early season and shot just 38.3 percent in a 96-81 loss to Utah.
Poor outside shooting was the most glaring issue for the Lakers.
Though Lonzo Ball — who was just 1-of-14 on 3-pointers in his previous three games — cashed three triples, his teammates were not so accurate, combining to shoot 2-of-16 from deep.
It further plunged the Lakers’ 3-point percentage, which was already second-lowest in the league at 28.7.
While Brandon Ingram led the Lakers (2-4) with 16 points — largely off his long-stride slashing — and four steals, a lack of ball movement also cost the team.
Furthermore, head coach Luke Walton felt that the Lakers — who entered the game running the league’s fastest pace — allowed Utah (3-3) to control the speed of the game.
The Jazz excel when grinding the game down to the slowest pace possible, and did just that, as their methodical, pass-happy offense outproduced L.A.’s work-in-progress attack.
“We’re better when we’re out in transition and not bottled down against a half-court defense,” Walton said. “Because we’re playing so many young guys, we have to get out and let them make plays where they can use some of their skills, their youth to their advantage.”
As leader of the Lakers’ young players, Ball personally took responsibility for much of his team’s struggles.
He shot well from deep, but wasn’t able to penetrate much with Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Rudy Gobert protecting the rim. As such, he shot 0-for-4 from inside the arc.
Ball, who has already established himself as one of the league’s best passing and rebounding guards, also finished with only four assists and two boards against five turnovers.
“It’s not enough,” Ball said. “We’re not gonna win like that.”
The second-overall pick also had a lapse that led to Utah’s top play of the young season.
After a layup by Jordan Clarkson (who had 15 points) and a triple from Kyle Kuzma, L.A. had cut its deficit to just six with two minutes left in the third quarter.
But Ball missed a box-out assignment on a Jazz miss, and Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell made him pay by flying up and hammering a one-handed put-back slam.
“He just came flying in and got that tip dunk,” Walton said, “which electrified the home crowd as it should’ve.”
Mitchell — who had a game-high 22 points — followed with a 3-pointer on Utah’s next trip and then came up with a steal immediately after, personally halting the Lakers’ comeback.
Nonetheless, Walton liked how his team managed to recover from surrendering 31 first-quarter points and give the Jazz a challenge, despite flying in early that morning.
“Besides the first quarter, I thought our guys competed hard at least,” Walton said. “I was proud of them for not giving in to the fatigue of getting in at 3 a.m. and having the back-to-back, three-games-in-four-nights thing.”
Larry Nance Jr. grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds. … Utah was led by Mitchell, Ricky Rubio (21 points, four 3’s) and Derrick Favors (14 points, 10 rebounds). … Former Utah Ute Kyle Kuzma (nine points) received applause when he checked into his first game in his college town.