“It’s not an effort, it’s a mental concentration” | Utah’s winning streak ends in Los Angeles

It’s time to rest and reset.

Entering Wednesday night with a six-game winning streak, Utah struggled in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter and lost 106-101 to the Lakers.

“As the game got closer, I thought we could have done more together in execution situations,” head coach Quin Snyder said. “It’s not effort, it’s mental focus. … It’s about treating every possession as important. Our offense hurt our defence. … We didn’t execute and that brought them to life. “

In the final game before the All-Star Break, Utah will now have a chance to regain good health and make a season-ending playoff effort. Already firmly in the playoff table, the Jazz will be focused on maintaining a top-four seed and chasing a higher seed.

But to do that, they’ll have to find ways to make sure a Wednesday night repeat doesn’t happen again.

Utah was firmly in control and the team significantly better for the first 42 minutes of the game, leading 92-80 with just over six minutes remaining. But that all changed when the Jazz lost their mental focus on the task at hand and LeBron James caught fire, leading to the late-game meltdown.

“They call him (James) the greatest player of all time. … Some might dispute that, but I call him that,” Snyder said. “When the game got closer, I thought we could have done more together in execution situations. It must not be so easy to give up a lead. … We have to get the teams working and working.”

Despite the loss, Donovan Mitchell was sensational.

He finished with a game-high 37 points on 13-of-23 shooting from the floor and 5-of-11 from beyond the arc. He added five assists, four steals and three rebounds.

He shone brightest in the first half, using a range of motion to create an at-will attack. From rim access to midrange jumpers and deep shots, Mitchell was fully into his bag of tricks, and the Lakers had no answer for him.

But where he really shone the most was in the third quarter.

While Los Angeles made a much more concerted effort to keep him from having such easy looks, Mitchell affected the game in other ways. Instead of forcing the offense, he calmly found the open man or made the right read as Utah’s offense remained highly effective.

“It’s just a reminder that we have to keep going,” Mitchell said. “In a way it’s a good reminder, but I’m tired of understanding things like this through losses.”

Needing the win much more than the Jazz, Los Angeles came out on fire as Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook combined for an 11-0 lead. But Mitchell was the spark Utah needed, scoring five straight en route to 15 in the quarter as the Jazz struggled to tie at 27 after the first.

Mitchell stayed hot in the second quarter, scoring seven of Utah’s last 11 points as the Jazz continued to grind and went into the half 53-46.

Despite struggling on points in the third quarter and playing as if they were “up 40”, Utah extended their lead to 13 by the end of the quarter. But James finished third with back-to-back layups as the Jazz led 79-71 early in the final 12 minutes.

Utah didn’t look fazed going into the fourth as a pair of Hassan Whiteside free throws made it a 12-point game before the Jazz lost control. The Lakers went 16-2 to take a two-point lead before a pair of free throws from Mike Conley tied it with just under two to go.

After Los Angeles took a four-point lead, the Jazz staged one final comeback when Bojan Bogdanovic knocked down a three-pointer to make it a one-point game with 37.6 remaining. Unfortunately, poor defensive communication led to an Austin Reaves three-pointer with 17.4 remaining, putting the game out of reach.

“It didn’t hurt, we didn’t feel it,” Mitchell said of the header drop. “There’s no way we should have lost this game, we let this game slip away in a lot of different circumstances. As a group we have to find a way to win this game, plain and simple. … We have to find a way to win this game and we just didn’t.”

Bogdanovic finished with 15 points while Jordan Clarkson added 13 from the bench. O’Neale scored 10 points in the third quarter and added seven rebounds and three steals.

James finished with 33 points, eight rebounds and six assists, dropping 15 points in fourth.

Utah is now heading into the all-star break and needs a rest to regain its health. They return to action on Friday, February 25 with a massive home showdown against Luka Doncic and Dallas. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST.

“A night like this is daunting, but it’s not something we’re going to overreact to. … We have to pull ourselves together and make that second-half push,” Mitchell said.

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