On a group text thread among Lakers players earlier this week, someone made reference to a social media slogan Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has adopted.
“Nobody cares, work harder.”
It resonated with the Lakers.
“That’s kind of the motto we talked about after our loss,” Alex Caruso said. “Nobody cares if we lose. If we lose, people get excited, people get up for that. We’ve gotten to that point after such a good start. For us, it’s not worrying about that. We gotta go out there and do our job regardless. Sick, not sick. It’s going to be harder on certain nights.”
On Wednesday night, the Lakers (19-3) ensured they would come out of their latest trip with a winning record. They beat the Utah Jazz 121-96 a night after beating the Denver Nuggets. The trip will finish in Portland on Friday.
“We know who we are,” Danny Green said. “We know our identity. We’re not getting too excited about anything or too low about anything. We know we’ve played some pretty good basketball at times, we’ve played some bad basketball at times. You continue to get better, continue to move forward and take on every challenge every night.”
Anthony Davis scored 26 points, on nine-of-11 shooting, and blocked three shots. He rested for the fourth quarter with the game well in hand. LeBron James also exited early, having scored 20 points with 12 assists. It was the first time since Dec. 8, 2010, that James had won a game in Salt Lake City.
Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each scored in double figures too.
Coach Frank Vogel cautioned before the game that Utah wasn’t what its record suggested. The Jazz had just come off a trip in which they lost four out of the five games they played, they were missing an injured Mike Conley, but they entered Wednesday’s game 8-1 at home.
Utah took an early lead, but once the Lakers settled into their game plan there was little the Jazz could do to stop them. The Lakers took the lead with 5:50 left in the first quarter and never trailed again.
“We gave it up a little bit tonight then we kind of found it again,” Davis said. “And tried to make sure that we gave them no life and tried to put the game away.”
Kuzma hit last-second shots at the end of the first and second quarters, and the Lakers went into halftime with an 18 point lead.
That was the closest the Jazz got to the Lakers in the third quarter. They never got closer than 17 in the fourth. Around that time, James stood near the Lakers bench in his stocking feet because he’d given his game shoes to a little girl. He cheered for his teammates while sometimes wandering onto the court in his socks.
“Late in the fourth quarter when we were up and I felt like we had a win in hand, I was just thinking to myself, ‘It’s been awhile since I won a game here,’” James said. “So, for us to come in in a hostile environment, one of the toughest places to play in the NBA and get a win, it’s a big game for us.”
It was a big game for Dwight Howard, too, who made his first three of the season.
“We tried it yesterday, it didn’t work,” Rondo said as he recounted what happened. “The shot clock was low. I looked at the bench I was like, welp. He got a green light to shoot this time, there’s no other option here. Four seconds on the shot clock so I was excited he made it. Winning’s fun.”