The sophistication that NBA teams have access to can break the game down to atom-sized details. Cameras measure every step and chart every inch traveled, systems in practice arenas tally the angle of descent from each jump shot, and discoveries that could change expected wins by even a single percentage point are game changers.
But outside of the equations, the spreadsheets and the computations, sometimes basketball is simple.
Be taller. Be faster. More forceful, more intentional. And make your threes.
Needing a win to clinch their group and earn a spot in the knockout stage of the NBA’s first in-season tournament, the Lakers were way bigger than Utah, way more assertive, way more accurate, and eventually, way more successful in a 131-99 win Tuesday.
The Lakers (9-6) will host a quarterfinal game Dec. 4 or Dec. 5, with a good chance they’ll end up as the top-seeded team in the conference thanks to their plus-74 point differential.
Without starting center Walker Kessler, the Jazz had no chance against Anthony Davis, the Lakers’ big man dominating the paint. They didn’t have nearly enough muscle for LeBron James, who continued his precise attack through NBA defenses.
And after missing a ton of high-quality looks in the first half while dominating the interior, the Lakers blew the game open once their three-point shots started falling.
Davis finished with 26 points and 16 rebounds in just 29 minutes. James played only 24 and had 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, spending the final quarter in his warmups with his Nikes untied.
D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves combined for 39 points with seven Lakers finishing in double figures.
The team outscored Utah 76-52 in the paint while holding the Jazz to 38.8% from the field and 25% from three.
The Lakers finished tournament pool play 4-0. A win in the quarterfinals would send them to Las Vegas with a chance to claim a prize pool worth $500,000 per player.
The Lakers did, though, lose an increasingly important player when forward Cam Reddish left the game in the first quarter because of a groin injury. He returned to the bench in the second half in street clothes.
Without Reddish, coach Darvin Ham turned to second-year guard Max Christie, and Christie responded with his best game of the season, scoring seven points in 24 minutes.
The Lakers host Dallas on Wednesday before heading out on the road after Thanksgiving.