by Alma Bean
Feature Image: Photo by Mark J. Terrill of AP Photo.
No Obstruction from the Basket
Going into this matchup, Utah had to go in with Mike Conley, who was out with a leg injury which he suffered on Saturday. With this unexpected change, Collin Sexton (10/2/1) received his second start of the season. Utah managed to drain most of their shots from within the perimeter shooting 8/14 (57.1%). Unfortunately for Utah, their three-point shooting did not have the same result. Shooting just 1/8 (12.5%), perimeter shooting looked to be Utah’s Achilles’ heel early. Led by the scoring of Lauri Markkanen (25/10/3) with nine points for the quarter, Markkanen’s scoring kept the first quarter within reach for Utah.
Kawhi Leonard (8/1/5), who returned from rehabbing his injury, made his first appearance against Utah since February 19, 2021. His return started off slow, shooting 1/2 (50%) with two points to finish the first quarter. Los Angeles was able to rely on the offense of John Wall (13/5/8) and Reggie Jackson (27/3/4) as they both finished the first with seven points. With Los Angeles finishing the quarter on a 17-6 run and half-court buzzer beater from Wall, Utah trailed 34-24 at the end of the first quarter.
Going into the second quarter, it seemed as if Utah found their groove and calling for comeback. Shooting 12/22 (54.5%) for the quarter from the field, the high-volume shooting was backed behind Jordan Clarkson (26/4/4). Shooting 4/6 (66.7%) from the field and 3/4 (75%) from beyond the perimeter, Clarkson tried to torch Los Angeles on his own. Los Angeles didn’t let Clarkson’s three-point shooting affect them as they were able to shoot 5/9 (55.6%) as a team. Without Conley in the lineup, Jarred Vanderbilt (6/10/5) took it upon himself to be the facilitator as he got all five of his assists in the first half. Utah matched Los Angeles point for point (32-32) in the second quarter, leaving Utah trailing at the half 66-56.
A Game of Momentum
After the break, looked as if Los Angeles changed their gameplan to try and attack the paint. Los Angeles shot 10/16 (62.5%) within the perimeter and only took two attempts from three for the third quarter. Kelly Olynyk (19/7/4) began to show Los Angeles that he is a force to be reckoned with from three. Shooting perfect for the game (3/3), Los Angeles couldn’t find an answer for Olynyk’s perimeter shooting. Even with Norman Powell (30/4/1) scoring 21 points in the game so far, Utah outscored Los Angeles 37-22 for the quarter. This 15-point differential gave Utah the lead going into the final quarter 93-88.
In the fourth quarter, Los Angeles seemed to stick with driving into the paint. Shooting 8/16 (50%) in the paint with Ivica Zubac (14/14/2) leading the barrage. As one of the leading shot blockers in the league, Zubac finished the game with two blocks. Utah even had their own player with two blocks in Talen Horton-Tucker (14/2/2). In Conley’s absence, Horton-Tucker has seen his minutes elevated and showing that he is worth the time. Though Utah went into the final quarter with the lead, they never saw it again after the 7:16 mark. Los Angeles ended Utah’s road trip with a 121-114 loss.