LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the Los Angeles Lakers have been out of playoff contention for the past month. They’re still playing a role in shaping the Western Conference bracket.
Caldwell-Pope scored 32 points Sunday night as the short-handed Lakers snapped Utah’s seven-game winning streak with a 113-109 victory over the Jazz.
The Lakers, beset by injuries all season, dressed only 10 players and played eight. And of those eight, only Caldwell-Pope and JaVale McGee played in the club’s opener.
“I’m sure when you’re a team that is looking down the roster and looking who is playing for us, naturally you would let down a little bit. That’s part of why this is fun,” coach Luke Walton said. “It’s the type of win where we needed everyone and everyone stepped up.”
It was a big loss for the Jazz, who fell two games behind Portland for the fourth seed in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Utah would need to win its remaining two games and the Trail Blazers would have to drop their last two for the Jazz to get the fourth seed. The teams would be tied with 51-31 records, but Utah would win the tiebreaker based on a better record in the Northwest Division.
On Friday night, the Lakers dealt the Clippers a five-point loss that put a dent in their hopes of getting anything higher than the sixth seed.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said a lack of urgency ended up costing his team.
“Regardless of where you’re seeded, you have to play well and play a certain way to win,” he said. “We’ve won some games, so sometimes that masks some things we weren’t doing well. Everyone has been talking about the winning streak, but that doesn’t mean anything.”
Caldwell-Pope scored 18 points during the fourth quarter as Los Angeles rallied for its second consecutive win and sixth in nine games. McGee added 22 points and Alex Caruso had 18 points and 11 assists.
Caldwell-Pope credited the big final quarter to being able to hit shots coming off ball screens.
“I wish I was playing like this to start the season, but now we just want to finish strong and play free,” he said.
Rudy Gobert led Utah with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Donovan Mitchell scored 19.
Utah, which was up 10 in the third quarter, led 85-81 early in the fourth when the Lakers scored eight straight points to take the lead. The run included 3-pointers by Mike Muscala and Caldwell-Pope.
Los Angeles extended its advantage to 106-97 with 1:57 remaining on a layup by Caldwell-Pope. The Jazz made a late run to get to 110-107 before McGee’s alley-oop put the Lakers up by more than one possession.
QUITE A FEAT
Jemerrio Jones had 16 rebounds in his first NBA start. He is the first Lakers player with 16 or more rebounds in his first career start, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Jones said he didn’t find out he was starting until he got to Staples Center.
“It was my time I guess and everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I’m not scoring a lot of points so I have to do the other things. I’ve been rebounding but this is on the biggest stage.”
Jazz: Georges Niang had 16 points and Thabo Sefolosha scored 13. … Jae Crowder, who had 11 points, hit a shot from halfcourt to end the third quarter but it was overturned when replays showed he didn’t get it off in time. … G Ricky Rubio missed the game with a bruised left quad sustained during Friday’s win over Sacramento.
Lakers: Muscala scored 16 points and Williams had 14. … G Lance Stephenson (sore left foot) and F Reggie Bullock (neck stiffness) did not play due to injuries.
Jazz: Host Denver on Tuesday in their final home game of the regular season.
Lakers: Finish the season Tuesday at home against Portland.