Los Angeles • We’ve seen this movie before. The plot is pretty recognizable at this point — a low-energy start, a woeful outside shooting performance, and a little more distance put between last year’s magical finish and this year’s underwhelming-by-comparison start.
It happened in Indiana. It happened again vs. Sacramento. The twist in the third act of the trilogy was facing a team that committed 23 turnovers against only 10 assists … and still finding a way to falter.
Yeah, the Jazz’s 90-83 loss to the Lakers on Friday night at the Staples Center — their third consecutive defeat — was quite the disaster flick.
It certainly didn’t help that star guard Donovan Mitchell went out in the second quarter with a rib contusion. Of course, it also didn’t help that he wasn’t playing well up to that point anyway.
But then, not many on the Jazz were. The team shot just 38.8 percent overall, and made only 4 of 23 3-pointers (17.4 percent).
“We got better. But we didn’t make shots,” noted point guard Ricky Rubio, who didn’t make nine of his 12 shots. “It’s hard to win when you don’t make shots.”
This game started the same way many others have — inefficiently. Utah’s first four possessions ended with three not-made shots and a turnover. The Lakers took advantage by running out to a 7-0 lead.
Two Derrick Favors buckets and a Joe Ingles 3 drew the team close — until L.A. responded with an 11-0 run, that is.
That would be a theme throughout: the Lakers getting out to the advantage, the Jazz closing the gap, and the cycle repeating.
That Utah’s opening-quarter deficit was only 22-16 was semi-miraculous, considering the team shot 7 of 26 overall (26.9 percent) and 1 of 11 on 3s (9.1 percent). It could have been much worse, but for the Lakers themselves making only 39.1 percent overall and 28.6 percent from deep.
The second quarter was more of the same — poor shooting from both teams, lots of turnovers from both teams.
Utah somehow wound up plus-six for the period, and tied 39-all at halftime in spite of shooting just 17 of 48 (35.4 percent), and 3 of 16 from deep (18.8 percent), and committing eight turnovers. But, again, the Lakers weren’t really any better — shooting 42.5 percent overall, 16.7 percent from deep, and committing 13 turnovers.
There were occasional bright spots for the Jazz. Ingles was a rare efficient shooter — hitting 5 of 8 early for 12 first-half points. There was even a Thabo Sefolosha sighting, as the veteran forward sparked a run with five quick points — as he hit a corner 3, then pump-faked another, drove in, and drained a mid-range jumper.
“We just gotta keep shooting it,” Sefolosha said. “Confidence is a big part of it — what we need to see is a few going in, and I think that’s gonna energize everybody.”
Meanwhile, they held LeBron James to four points (on 2 of 7 shooting), six rebounds, and three assists at the break.
None of that, though, could make up for the halftime news that Mitchell would not return. (He finished with four points on 2-of-9 shooting, including 0 of 4 from deep.)
“Well, he’s our leading scorer, and it impacts the game, but that’s not a crutch or an excuse,” said coach Quin Snyder. “I like the fact that we kept competing. Joe had an excellent game attacking. [Alec Burks] got the rim. Other guys just have to pick it up.”
Utah still decided to come out of its locker room to start the third quarter, however, and even hung on for awhile.
And “hanging on” was an apt term — the teams went into the final quarter having committed 35 turnovers between them and having shot a combined 8 of 37 from deep (21.6 percent).
The finale was hardly Hollywood — no dramatic basket at the buzzer to seal the deal. Just the team with the best player in the world gradually, finally pulling away.
James’ mostly quiet night, by the end, had somehow morphed into yet another near-triple-double. He finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Brandon Ingram, who carried the Lakers offensively for the first three quarters, finished with 24 points and six rebounds.
Burks — playing the bulk of Mitchell’s second-half minutes — led the Jazz with 17 points, while Ingles added 16, Rudy Gobert had 13, and Favors finished with 10.
“There’s no drama with this group. They’re focused on what they need to do, and we just need to get more consistent doing it,” Snyder said. “I think tonight was a night that, if we made some shots, maybe it tips the other way.”
As they depart for Sacramento on Saturday afternoon, ahead of Sunday’s rematch with the Kings, they can only be hoping to encounter a different script.
“We came out this year with high expectations, compared to last year — we came out [as] underdogs. We should always have the underdog mindset. Have the mindset of proving [to] everyone what we can be, and prove everyone wrong,” Gobert said. “… It’s coming. When you lose a few games in a row, it’s coming.”