James driv­ing Lak­ers’ streak

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

LOS AN­GE­LES — Al­though the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers haven't won many games with de­fense over the last half-decade, LeBron James can in­spire his new team­mates to all sorts of feats that seemed im­pos­si­ble not too long ago.

James had 22 points, 10 re­bounds and seven as­sists, and he seized con­trol of an ugly game with nine points in the fourth quar­ter of the Lak­ers' sev­enth win in eight games, 90-83 over the Utah Jazz on Fri­day night.

Bran­don In­gram scored 24 points while the Lak­ers strug­gled in their first game back from an East­ern Con­fer­ence road trip, but still per­se­vered to earn the fi­nal win in this fran­chise's first 7-1 stretch since the last eight games of the 2012-13 sea­son.

Al­though the Lak­ers have shown signs of be­ing a dy­namic of­fen­sive team around James, there wasn't a sign to be seen against the un­der­manned Jazz, other than In­gram's un­com­monly ag­gres­sive per­for­mance. The Lak­ers com­mit­ted a sea­son-high 24 turnovers and man­aged just 10 as­sists all night, strug­gling to get out on the break and founder­ing in half-court sets.

So they pro­duced one of their best de­fen­sive games of the sea­son, hold­ing Utah to the fewest points scored by an LA op­po­nent since last Fe­bru­ary.

“There's go­ing to be games where you just don't shoot the ball well, and tonight we turned the ball over,” James said. “We're try­ing to be a re­ally good team, and there's go­ing to be games where we've got to do it de­fen­sively. Tonight we did that.”

Nei­ther team took a com­mand­ing lead in the sec­ond half un­til James hit a layup and a 3-pointer on con­sec­u­tive pos­ses­sions with 3:15 to play. James then blocked a shot by Alec Burks in the fi­nal sec­onds as Los An­ge­les held on to snap its se­v­engame skid against Utah.

“We never re­ally got in a rhythm shoot­ing the ball,” Lak­ers coach Luke Wal­ton said. “Some of it is Utah is a re­ally good de­fen­sive team, and some was us play­ing some­what self­ish bas­ket­ball. There were po­si­tions that we should have made ex­tra passes, and we harp on that all the time. We'll con­tinue to harp on that.”

Dono­van Mitchell scored four points be­fore he bruised his ribs in the sec­ond quar­ter and didn't re­turn, de­priv­ing the Jazz of their top pro­ducer and com­pound­ing their al­ready for­mi­da­ble of­fen­sive strug­gles. The Jazz won't pro­vide an up­date on Mitchell's con­di­tion be­fore Satur­day.

“He's our lead­ing scorer, so it im­pacts the game,” Utah coach Quin Sny­der said. “It's not a crutch or an ex­cuse. I liked the fact that we kept com­pet­ing.”

Burks scored 17 points and Joe In­gles had 16, but the Jazz have lost three straight and five of six.

Mitchell was 2 of 9 and com­mit­ted two turnovers be­fore his in­jury. Rudy Gobert had 13 points and seven re­bounds.

The Lak­ers’ Josh Hart played 14 score­less min­utes de­spite a strained ten­don in his left an­kle. After re­turn­ing at 4 a.m. Thanks­giv­ing morn­ing from a trip to Florida and Cleve­land, Los An­ge­les has be­gun a stretch with six of seven at Sta­ples Cen­ter. JaVale McGee had 12 points, and Ball added nine points and 10 re­bounds.

Nei­ther team did much to dis­tin­guish it­self early on the first game back from Thanks­giv­ing. The Lak­ers held Utah un­der 30 per­cent shoot­ing for most of the first half, but then blew an 11-point lead in the fi­nal 3 min­utes while com­mit­ting 13 turnovers in the first half.

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