LeBron scores 32, AD adds 21 in Lakers’ 95-86 win over Jazz
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Less than 90 seconds into the game, Anthony Davis leaped and slammed home an alley-oop pass from LeBron James for the first points of his home debut with the Los Angeles Lakers.
By the final 90 seconds, Davis and James were enjoying a blowout win from the bench.
It’s only a start, but it’s exactly what the Lakers had in mind when these two superstars elected to team up in Hollywood.
Davis had 21 points and seven rebounds in his first home game with the Lakers, and James delivered 32 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds Friday night during Los Angeles’ 95-86 victory over the Utah Jazz.
Troy Daniels hit four 3-pointers and scored 15 points for the Lakers, who were impressive in unveiling their revamped lineup. Along with the offensive fireworks expected from a team boasting Davis and James, Los Angeles forced 23 turnovers by a talented Utah squad and won comfortably behind that gritty defense.
“We are the real deal defensively,” Davis said. “We try to lay our hats on defense. We want to be a defensive-oriented team, and guys came in and were pesky today.”
Davis had already played in a regular-season game at Staples Center in a Lakers uniform while getting wildly cheered — but that happened three days earlier during the Lakers’ loss in the Clippers’ home opener.
The star big man is still looking for his flow, but he blocked five shots and contributed steadily on offense. James was aggressive throughout the final three quarters, bulling his way to the hoop and sliding away from defenders in another impressive two-way game.
“He was just locked in and had a really good night in both halves, but particularly in the second half,” Los Angeles coach Frank Vogel said.
Donovan Mitchell scored 24 points for the Jazz, who played without injured newcomer Bojan Bogdanovic. Utah has committed 34 turnovers in its first two games.
Jeff Green had five points while starting in place of Bogdanovic, Utah’s $73 million free agent acquisition. The Jazz beat Oklahoma City in their opener, but didn’t have enough offense to compete with the new-look Lakers and their solid defensive schemes.
“We were talking about our offense all preseason and how it was good, and our defense was bad,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “Now our offense hasn’t been good. ... There’s a part of it that you’re getting connected and things like that, but there’s also part of it where we just need to be stronger with the ball. We need to be more decisive. We need to be more precise.”
The Lakers never trailed after the opening minutes, and they took firm control with a strong third quarter featuring 12 points from James and three 3-pointers from Daniels, the proficient outside shooter acquired specifically to knock down spot-up 3s.
Los Angeles opened the third quarter with a small lineup using Davis as its center to minimize the defensive impact of Utah big man Rudy Gobert, and it worked splendidly.
“You’ve got to give credit to the Lakers, too,” said Mike Conley, who had 13 points on 3-of-11 shooting. “They defended us the way they wanted to, but a lot of it is us learning each other. Us learning guys. Who’s handling the ball? Who’s running? Who’s in different lanes?”
Dwight Howard heard a few boos when he checked in for his first home game back with the Lakers, whom he spurned in free agency in 2013 after one tumultuous season. He had been booed relentlessly for six years since — but in his return as Los Angeles’ backup center, Howard played a strong defensive game and earned cheers by the second half with his obvious effort.
Danny Green had nine points after scoring 28 against the Clippers in his Lakers debut earlier this week. The veteran who won a ring with Toronto last season also took the microphone before the game and told cheering fans: “I promise we’ll do better than last year.”
Jazz: Bogdanovic sat out after rolling his left ankle in Utah’s season opener Wednesday. He returned in the second half of that win over Oklahoma City, scoring nine of his 16 points on a bad ankle. ... Joe Ingles started and scored just two points after Royce O’Neale started the opener.
Lakers: G Rajon Rondo missed his second straight game with a sore right calf. He will return soon, and F Kyle Kuzma will be right behind him. Kuzma didn’t participate in training camp while recovering from a left ankle injury incurred during the summer, but he is participating in 4-on-4 drills and other activities.
Jazz: Host the Sacramento Kings on Saturday.
Lakers: Host the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.