Fresh off a stark reminder that a run to the NBA Finals is far from a foregone conclusion, the Los Angeles Lakers will face another stern test during the restart with a matchup Monday against the Utah Jazz near Orlando.
The Lakers' wakeup call came Saturday when the Western Conference leaders hadtheir offense disrupted by the defending champion Toronto Raptors in a 107-92 defeat. That would be a Raptors team that is in second place in the Eastern Conference and no longer has Kawhi Leonard, who led them to a title last season.
The Lakers (50-15) certainly looked the part as the best in the West when they defeated Leonard's Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, the night of the NBA's return.
The Jazz (42-24) also won that night, taking the first game of the league's return when they defeated the New Orleans Pelicans. Utah, the fourth-place team in the Western Conference, is coming off a 110-94 defeat to the fifth-place Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.
Yet the Jazz still are looking at Saturday's game as a win. On March 11 they were supposed to play in Oklahoma City when the game was called off just before the opening tip. Utah center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19. Upon the conclusion of the March 11 slate of games, the NBA suspended play.
"It's pretty surreal that we ended up here kind of replaying the game," said Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, who also ended up testing positive for COVID-19. "I think honestly it was kind of refreshing to go out there and play that game specifically because it was the one that really changed a lot throughout the world and I think for us to get out there, outside of just the game itself, but just for us as a whole and the NBA, I think it was a pretty special moment."
Mitchell had 13 points against the Thunder on Saturday and Mike Conley added 12, but the Jazz shot 39.1 percent from the field, trailed 29-15 after one quarter and were in scramble mode the rest of the way.
Mitchell's point total was well below his team-leading 24.0 per game. Gobert grabs 13.6 rebounds per game but had just seven boards against the Thunder.
The Lakers were even worse from the field against the Raptors on Saturday, shooting 35.4 percent and just 25 percent (10 of 40) from 3-point range.
LeBron James scored 20 points and Anthony Davis had 14, giving the dynamic duo just one more point combined than Toronto's Kyle Lowry, who had 33. Davis took just seven shots in 35 minutes. Toronto also had a 51-40 rebounding advantage.
James, who scores 25.5 points per game with 8.0 rebounds and 10.5 assists, had 10 rebounds and five assists against the Raptors. Davis, who scores 26.6 points per game, figures to be more involved Monday against the Jazz.
"When a team is doubling as much as they were, we still want to get (Davis) more involved than we did," Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said to the media after the loss to the Raptors. "But I thought he did a really good job of identifying the double teams where it was coming from and finding open shots for guys on the backside."
--Field Level Media