The Lakers and Jazz both entered Monday night’s game coming off of losses, as L.A. got smothered by the red-hot Raptors and Utah looked flat in a loss to the Thunder, and were looking to get back on track. With a win, the Lakers could cement the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and turn their attention, fully, to playoff preparation, while Utah had slipped to fifth in the West and needed a win to move back to fourth a half game ahead of Houston.
Like so many games in the bubble, Monday night’s tilt was a highly competitive and entertaining one, but a late third quarter run from the Lakers proved to be the difference as they took what had been a back-and-forth affair and closed on a 19-5 run to open up a 10-point lead entering the final period. As has been the case in both of their wins, it was the play of Anthony Davis that shined brightest for the Lakers, with the star big man erupting for 42 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and a block in a 116-108 win.
Davis showed his full array of talents, hitting 13 of his 28 shots, including 4-of-8 from three-point range, and was 12-of-15 from the free throw line. While his teammates, including James, continue to work their way back into offensive form, Davis has shown his dominance against the Clippers and Jazz — with a notable struggle against Toronto, who have looked spectacular defensively in the bubble.
The pick-and-roll game with LeBron remains a lethal go-to for the Lakers when they need to create some flow and a bucket, but Davis had it going in isolation inside and out and as a ball-handler, making plays off the bounce.
— NBA (@NBA) August 4, 2020
— NBA (@NBA) August 4, 2020
LeBron James has seemed more than happy to cede the spotlight to Davis to begin the restarted season, acting more as a facilitator and, when needed, getting key buckets late — as we saw against the Clippers in the opener. Monday was his best game of the restart, with 22 points, nine assists, and eight boards on 9-of-16 shooting, as he continues to take on a lead ball-handling role for a shorthanded backcourt still trying to figure out roles and rotations.
For the Jazz, the loss threatens the chance of falling to sixth in the West, as they’re now just a half-game ahead of the Thunder and a half game behind the Rockets for fourth. That race will be fascinating to watch over the next few days, as the teams shuffle positioning and seeding, with the first round matchups either being with each other or the 3-seed in Denver.
Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley have stepped their games up in the bubble, combining for 57 points on Monday, while Rudy Gobert is his steady, efficient self, but with Bojan Bogdanovic out, they have failed to find a consistent fourth contributor. No other member of the Jazz finished with more than seven points against L.A. and as a team they shot just 27.9 percent from three-point range, as their role players have simply not stepped up in any sort of consistent manner.
Next up for Utah is a Memphis team desperate for a win after an 0-3 start that’s seen their hold on the 8-seed slipping away, while the Lakers take on a Thunder team that’s been giving the opposition fits in the bubble, but is coming off a loss to Denver.