Recap: Zubac, Lakers battle back but fall short of Jazz in Utah

The Los Angeles Lakers lost their tenth straight road game and their third straight overall. However, this was one of the few moral victories, as the Lakers were able to battle back against a strong Utah Jazz team without perhaps their two best players in D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. Ultimately, it was not enough as the Lakers fell 96-88.

Takeaways:

Effort:

I won’t spend too much time on this because I don’t like to harp on the effort of people I don’t know in a profession with which I have no experience.

That said, the Lakers have had some duds this season, with the latest in an embarrassing 49-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Since that drubbing, however, they have put together two strong performances in Portland and Utah, two of the more notoriously difficult road arenas. Both of those games were played without Russell (the Lakers are now 3-13 this year without their point guard) and this one without Randle.

There will probably be duds again; that’s to be expected in an 82 game season and especially so with a young roster. But I don’t believe this team has an overarching effort issue. In fact, I would venture to say they have done admirably with their backs against the wall.

Playmaking:

To keep it short and sweet: the Lakers have a dire need for more playmaking.

Russell has pretty much proven himself at this point in that department but outside of him, there is a gaping hole.

Randle does his best work in transition and is inconsistent in the half-court. Jordan Clarkson has taken a step backwards in one of the more disappointing aspects of this season. Brandon Ingram has exceeded expectations but is still a 19-year-old who can be easily pressured by aggressive defenses.

Pretty much no other player on the team can be looked at as someone who can put pressure on the defense and create shots for their teammates. That’s a huge problem; the best teams have multiple players that can do that – it’s what makes an offense dangerous with multiple options available at all times.

The Lakers spent a lot of money on Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng this summer and that’s where this really bites. Now that we have a little more knowledge about this core, we know where the Lakers could use some help. Free agency will be crucial but their hands are somewhat tied.

“I believe that Zubac is our future” – Whitney Houston

Ivica Zubac looks like the real deal.

It’s incredibly early and we have a small sample size but he’s been phenomenal nearly every time he has stepped on the court for the Lakers. Zubac put up another double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds), this time (partially) against one of the premier defenders in the NBA in Rudy Gobert.

But with Zu, it’s not even the stats that are impressive. It’s how many NBA-skills he already has. He has the ability to score in post-ups, in drop-offs, in pick-and-rolls, and in midrange spot-ups. He’s a killer screener which has helped the guards and himself get easier opportunities to score. He has demonstrated a keen ability to find open shooters in the corners.

There are deficiencies of course: Zubac doesn’t box out well, is a step slow defensively often, and is somewhat unbalanced still as he adjusts to the level of competition and athleticism in the NBA.

But he is miles ahead of where even the most optimistic fans believe he would be at this point in the season. And with Russell eventually coming back, he may start to put up even more impressive numbers.

Fan Takeaways:

(Note: I had to include one bad take.)

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