Short-handed Lakers overwhelmed by Jazz, fall to 2-8

SALT LAKE CITY — Midway through the second quarter on Monday night, the Utah Jazz played an in-arena promo with two versions of the same picture: Jordan Clarkson hanging onto the rim, seemingly towering over the Lakers’ LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, an image taken in Los Angeles just four nights earlier.

The challenge? Spot the differences.

In reality, the biggest difference was that LeBron James was wearing a jacket and jeans on the sideline instead of a jersey. But many other details of this Jazz-Lakers rematch were remarkably similar.

Utah (9-3) laid a thrashing on their guests, ripping off a 139-116 victory Monday night at Vivint Smarthome Arena to continue the best, most surprising start of the season in the Western Conference. The undermanned Lakers, by contrast, continued to sink – reaching the 10-game mark with a 2-8 record as underwhelming as they’ve been playing lately.

Often a glass-half-full voice during previous seasons, Lakers big man Anthony Davis seemed particularly frustrated with the start, calling it “a hard pill to swallow” and calling out the team’s defensive effort.

“It seems like we’ve lost all our defensive intensity, and that’s what’s killing us,” he said. “It sucks to be 2-8. We had enough to win this game. We’ve got enough to win every game.”

Monday night suggested otherwise.

They got aggressive performances out of their two healthy stars: Davis took charge on offense with 29 points on 11-for-18 shooting, striving to be more involved after taking just two second-half shots in Sunday’s loss to Cleveland. Still playing his sixth-man role despite three rotation players being unavailable, Westbrook again started hot from the floor and wound up with 22 points and five assists.

But it mattered little against a defense that could not stop the Jazz offensive onslaught. For the second time in as many matchups, the Lakers couldn’t slow the multi-pronged attack that saw seven Jazz players score in double figures.

On Friday, they allowed 40 points in the first quarter, 75 by halftime and 130 by the end of the night; on Monday, it was 41 in the first and 76 by the intermission, building to the season-high 139 points allowed. Fans were streaming out of the arena with 6½ minutes remaining.

Davis took some accountability for the lackluster third quarter, saying he had allowed Lauri Markkanen (23 points) easy drives to the basket early that set the tone. But he was concerned about trends that have set in after a hot defensive start to the year: “It’s like we just stopped communicating in the third quarter, stopped helping one another.”

Without their leading scorer in James and two key backcourt pieces, Lonnie Walker IV and Patrick Beverley, the Lakers were at a disadvantage from the outset. But that piece of context doesn’t do much good for the tumble down the standings that sees the Lakers just a half-game ahead of last-place Houston in the West.

Coach Darvin Ham, however, remained defiant despite the poor start to his first head coaching season.

“It’s not going to always be like this,” he said. “We’re going to turn the corner. I didn’t come here to lose. They didn’t bring me here to lose. But there is a process involved where we have to go through tough times.”

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The encouraging part early was that the Lakers were able to maintain a reasonable pace with Utah. Jordan Clarkson (22 points) led the early effort for the Jazz, but the Lakers got a punching chance with twirling finishes at the rim from Davis and even a pair of first-half 3-pointers from Westbrook (who has been an ace deep shooter since he started coming off the bench).

That peeled away during a third quarter that saw the Lakers get outscored by 12. In the fourth quarter, they managed just 18 points and played out the last six minutes of the game with a crew of reserves. The Jazz shot 56.4 percent for the night, including 17 for 22 from 3-point range.

Davis didn’t completely acquit concerns of fading late. After starting 9 for 12 in the first half, he was 2 for 6 in the second (although he did take six free throws in the second half as well).

Utah’s offense was so cohesive, almost everyone who played had a chance to shine. That included Talen Horton-Tucker, whom the Lakers traded in August, who brought the arena to its feet in the third quarter with a poster dunk over Damion Jones. Patrick Beverley, the player the Lakers got back in the deal, missed his second straight game with illness.

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