NBA Basketball: November 23 – Utah Jazz @ Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers are soaring with LeBron James and look to record their seventh victory in eight games when they host the Utah Jazz on Friday. James posted 32 points and 14 rebounds in his return to Cleveland on Wednesday as new his club continued its roll with a 109-105 victory.
Lakers coach Luke Walton is impressed with a lot of things when it comes to James but he really is amazed at how the superstar blocks out distractions. “The great ones have that ability,” Walton told reporters. “When they’re on the basketball court nothing else matters, other than what they’re trying to do. Their focus level seems to somehow get higher with the louder the noise gets. I don’t know how. I don’t know why.” Utah dropped four of its last five games after falling 119-110 at home to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. “We have to figure it out,” center Rudy Gobert told reporters of the club’s lackluster start. “There’s nothing to overthink. It starts with me, and then once I do what I have to do, I think the team’s gonna follow.”
Utah has been a solid defensive squad in recent seasons but the intensity has been lacking and the Jazz allowed at least 113 points in all four losses of the five-game stretch. “We have to be able to defend better to win,” Utah coach Quin Snyder told reporters. “If I could point to one thing, it’s our communication. That’s the thing that links you together and makes you be able to defend as a group.” The Jazz have given up more than 100 points in 12 of the past 14 games, and have allowed more than 120 four times this season.
Second-year point guard Lonzo Ball was 1-of-11 shooting while scoring two total points in a two-game span before tallying 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds and six assists against the Cavaliers. “That was one of my favorite parts of our game – how much he was attacking the rim,” Walton said afterward. “Even the ones that he didn’t finish, I didn’t care. Just seeing him get downhill and be physical and playmake.” Forward Kyle Kuzma scored 12 points and is averaging just 11.8 points over the last six games after topping 20 points in four of the first 11 contests.
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