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SALT LAKE CITY — The Los Angeles Lakers have always been one of the Utah Jazz’s fiercest rivals.
Whether it came to the playoffs, free agents or former players, the two franchises have skirmished over several matters for the better part of 30 years. This season, the two teams are even fighting each other in the loss column, fighting to be as worse as possible to get a high lottery pick in this year’s highly touted draft.
In that sense, Los Angeles lost Wednesday as the Lakers beat Utah in the final regular season home game for the Jazz.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said Utah fell victim to a plethora of turnovers in stretches of the game — a consistent theme throughout the season.
“It was a bad time to turn it over,” he said. “We had 18 turnovers; they scored 29 points, so they were turnovers that cost you baskets. We couldn’t get out of our own way. Turned the ball over, we missed some great opportunities, and they made us pay down the stretch.”
With the loss, Utah finished the home slate of its schedule with a record of 16-25 — the worst home record since the 2004-05 season. Still, center Enes Kanter said he appreciated the fan support of the team in spite of the losses.
“I really appreciate (the fans),” said Kanter, who scored 19 points in the loss. “I know that we lost lots of games this year, but the fans always supported us. They’re the sixth man of this team, and I really appreciate them.”
Utah has had issues holding leads late in games throughout the season, but the loss to Los Angeles was one where the Jazz led by as much as 13 in the first half. Kanter said the collapse is something the Jazz have in their minds.
“It’s definitely mental,” he said. “But on the court and on paper, this team has a lot of talent. We can beat the Lakers at any time, on any court. (It’s) mental.”
Both teams were tied in the third quarter before the Lakers went on a 45-30 run to finish out the game. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said the Los Angeles defense created a variety of issues for the team.
“We didn’t execute well offensively,” said Hayward, who finished with 21 points. “They read a lot of our passes; too many turnovers. It turned into easy points for them.”
All of the speculation around the team’s future has lingered, but now the day of reckoning is drawing near. With that in mind, Corbin said he will have to evaluate himself at the season’s end.
“It’s been an interesting year,” said Corbin, who does not have a contract with the Jazz beyond this season. “I have a lot of evaluating to do that I want to do for myself, and figure out what’s my next step.”
Hayward also will have questions to answer about his future, as he becomes a restricted free agent at season’s end. As for now, Hayward said there are a variety of things he can take away from the season.
“(I learned, we learned) how to close out games,” he said. “(We learned) not to give up huge runs like we did tonight. Just the little things that help you win basketball games I think is what a lot of us need to take.”