The Los Angles Lakers played bracket buster again this time in a home win over the Utah Jazz.
L.A. defeated the Western Conference’s five seeded Jazz, 109-113, on April 4. The victory came only days after beating the eight seeded Clippers in a technical road win.
“A rewarding win for the group.” Luke Walton said after the game. “It’s great to watch the game being played when you have guys just out there giving it their all, no agenda other than to win the game.”
Of course, the Lakers 37th win came with no LeBron James, no Brandon Ingram and no Lonzo Ball who’ve all been shut down for a while now. Additionally, Lance Stephenson and Reggie Bullock were scratched from the lineup versus the Jazz.
Even veterans Rajon Rondo and Tyson Chandler did not get any run despite being active. Walton said he doesn’t plan on playing them for the rest of the season so he can keep giving the young guys reps.
Mike Muscala and Alex Caruso entered the starting lineup with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and JaVale McGee rounding out the veterans in the starting group.
Caldwell-Pope finished with 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the field. He added six assists and six rebounds as well.
“I wish I was playing like this to start the season,” K.C.P. said after his game-high scoring night. “…We just want to have fun with each other.”
The shooting guard scored 18 points and got four assists in the fourth quarter alone. His three gave the Lakers an 89-85 advantage to start separating themselves in the fourth. Caldwell-Pope’s three towards the end of the first half also kept the Lakers close at 54-56 before a Donovan Mitchell three ended the half 59-54.
Added, K.C.P. found McGee for a few assists in the fourth quarter and throughout. One of them included finding McGee after a steal for a dunk that would pull the Lakers with two to start the third.
Speaking of McGee, he started with 8 of the Lakers first 10 points. His 10 points in the first quarter helped the Lakers secure a seven point advantage at the end period one.
“We are playing out there with a little bit of jealousy,” McGee said about the Lakers recent trend of upsetting playoff bound teams.” …We’re gonna mess up ya’ll bracket just for the hell of it.
McGee finished with 22 points, five rebounds and three assists. He hit a nice alley-oop pass from K.C.P that would serve as the dagger. McGee also converted a nice jump hoop to give the Lakers the advantage late in the fourth. He had eight in the fourth quarter.
Muscala added 16 points eight rebounds in the front court too. Muscala hit several key three pointers to keep the Lakers ahead or in striking distance including one that gave them an 86-85 early in the fourth.
For the Lakers bench, Jonathan Williams added 14 points and 8 rebounds. Moritz Wagner added six points as well. Williams best stretch included the point where he hit consecutive free throws on seperate Lakers possessions. Williams then tied the game at 78 with a layup and foul. He couldn’t hit the the free throw to give his team the advantage.
A little later, Wagner made a crucial driving dunk that made the game 81-83 towards the end of the third. Both young players with G-league starts had highlight dunks as well off the bench.
Otherwise, Caruso had another big night with 18 points and 11 assists. He wasn’t the only player who started with the South Bay Lakers before.
Jemerrio Jones made his first career start at forward.
Jones became the first Laker since the 70s to register more than 16 rebounds in his first start. The 23-year-old on a ten-day contract appreciated the opportunity to add five points, five assists, two blocks and a steal in 37 minutes as well.
“It’s a little easier to get when you are playing a couple of guys who are coming up from the G League who are just happy to be there and playing as hard as possible when they are on the court.” Walton said about his group’s performance.
The head coach also talked about Jones’ authentic appreciation for the opportunity to play so much this late in the season. L.A. has won six games in their last nine outings.
As for what is next for Jones who will play in the Lakers final game on Tuesday, he is looking forward to, “getting a W and messing up their little bracket.
The Lakers will try to mess with more of the Western Conference playoff teams in Tuesday’s match up versus the Blazers. Currently, Portland is the fourth seed and set to host the Jazz for a playoff series in the first round. Still, that didn’t stop Utah from L.A.’s upset tonight. The Jazz won seven straight headed into this game including a 100-115 home win over the Lakers on March 27
“Everybody’s talking about [how] we’ve won eight, nine in a row or whatever. That doesn’t mean anything.” Jazz head coach Quinn Snyder said after his team’s loss. “Hopefully we get better from something like this…”
Utah finished with four of their five starters in double-figure scoring. Rudy Gobert led the group with 21 points, two blocks and 10 rebounds. Donovan Mitchell added 19 points and five assists too.
Still, the Jazz shot 13-of-42 from three and they couldn’t take advantage of winning the turnover battle. Utah finished with 11 turnovers while the Lakers compiled 17 for the night. Jazz forward Joe Ingles said the Lakers played and hard and deserved the win.
“They’ve got nothing to lose and some guys that are out there are playing really hard for jobs or whatever it is for next year.” Ingles said. “It’s obviously a good win for them. ”
Ingles finished with 12 points, 8 assists and four rebounds. Ingles converted a couple of open threes to give the Jazz the lead at half time. He answered a Williams dunk with a three to make the game 49-58 with three minutes left in the first half. He also answered a Muscala three with an off-the-dribble three on the Jazz’s next possession.
Fast forward to the fourth and his three off a Mitchell drive and kick would make the game 100-106. Jae Crowder got a breakaway dunk to bring the Jazz within two possession. That was about as close as Utah would get though.
For the night. Crowder added 11 points and 6 rebounds off the bench while Georges Niang added 16 points as a reserve too. Crowder hit a crucial three with three minutes left in the third that made the game 81-78.
Utah trails Portland two games for the fourth seed and home court advantage in the first round. Both teams have two games left on their schedule so the Lakers can actually help the Jazz by defeating Portland on Tuesday. L.A. takes on the Blazers at 7:30 P.M. PST on April 9.