Donovan Mitchell, Jazz Cruise Past LeBron James-Less Lakers in Win

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 28, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 27: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz dunks the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 27, 2019 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Rudy Gobert posted a 22-point, 11-rebound double-double and Derrick Favors added 20 points as the Utah Jazz led wire to wire in a 115-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Joe Ingles added a near triple-double with 11 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds for the 45-30 Jazz. Donovan Mitchell scored 11 points.

Kyle Kuzma led the 33-42 Lakers with 21 points. JaVale McGee contributed a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double.

Lakers forward LeBron James missed the game for rest.


Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors Crucial to Jazz's Postseason Hopes

On Jan. 5, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News wrote an article comparing this year's Jazz with the 2000s Detroit Pistons, a defensive-minded, well-rounded team that won the 2004 title.

He asked some Jazz personnel about the comparison and received some interesting answers, none more so than a remark from Gobert.

"I love that they had an identity," Gobert told Woodyard. "Everyone knew their role, and they would come every night with the same mindset."

That's the case with the Jazz. Mitchell is the scorer. Gobert is the best defender. And Ricky Rubio is an excellent ball-handler and distributor.

But the X-factors are Ingles and Favors in their roles as jack-of-all-trades and tertiary scorer. On a night where Mitchell didn't get much going on 3-of-11 shooting, Ingles and Favors stepped up to help lead Utah to victory.

Ingles nearly had a triple-double in the first half, posting eight points, nine assists and seven rebounds. The Lakers had no chance stopping him all night en route to Utah's comfortable win.

He's third among team members in the rotation in defensive box plus/minus, per Basketball Reference. Among that group, he's also third in assist percentage and three-point rate.

Ingles is also a defensive pest with his 1.3 steals per game.

As far as Favors goes, he scored 13 of his 20 points in the first two quarters to lead the Jazz. Outside of the Mitchell-Gobert duo, Favors is the player most capable of lighting up the scoreboard, a trait he'll likely need on nights when one or both of Utah's co-leaders can't get going. He notably dropped 23 points and 18 boards versus the Milwaukee Bucks on March 2.

The 27-year-old veteran is enjoying his most efficient scoring season, managing a 62.2 true shooting percentage. That could be huge down the stretch for a Jazz team that may struggle to keep up with more dominant offenses such as the Golden State Warriors or Denver Nuggets.

Ultimately, those two will be huge down the stretch on nights when Mitchell doesn't take over and lead the Jazz to wins.

He can do that, as evidenced by him scoring 28.5 points per game in his team's first-round series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder last year.

On other nights, Mitchell is going to need some help.

Gobert will provide that. Per Basketball Reference, he's second in defensive win shares, third in overall win shares and 10th in player efficiency rating. He's also second in true shooting percentage and blocks 2.2 shots per game.

Like the Pistons, however, the Jazz aren't going to win off the backs of two players alone. On a team without superstars, everyone is going to have to bring it in the playoffs. If Ingles' and Favors' play on Wednesday is any indication, then that could occur.


Utah Could Make Dark-Horse Run to West Finals

Here's a trivia question: Who are the top four teams in point differential this season?

If you've been following the NBA, the first three answers are obvious: the Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors in that order.

However, the fourth team is less obvious, and that would be the Jazz at plus-4.9 entering Wednesday.

Utah has gone 27-10 since a sluggish 18-20 start. A brutal schedule played a part, with the team playing the Warriors twice, the Raptors twice and the 47-28 Houston Rockets three times. Utah has turned its fortunes around, though, and is scorching-hot entering the postseason.

Per ESPN.com, the Jazz are second in defensive efficiency. Their offensive number pales in comparison, but a respectable No. 14 mark in offensive efficiency could be good enough to push the Jazz further into the playoffs.

Also, Utah has respectable showings against the top eight in the West. Of note, they have a .500 or better record against everyone but the Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Jazz may not have to worry much about Oklahoma City, which is seeded seventh and may not see Utah in the playoffs anyway. Utah could also recapture some of the magic from its playoff win versus the Thunder last year too.

The Jazz look like they're set up for success. The key, of course, is Utah's potential path and whether it can avoid the Golden State Warriors until the Western Conference Finals.

If the season ended today, that would not happen. The Jazz are now the Western Conference's No. 5 seed, and Golden State is first. Picking any team to beat the Warriors, whom Vegas Insider lists as an overwhelming 1-2 favorite to win, is foolish.

But the standings could certainly shake out in a different way, perhaps if the Jazz overcome a 2.5-game deficit and take third over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Based on what we saw Wednesday, that's a possibility.


What's Next?

Both teams play at home on Friday.

The Lakers will host the Charlotte Hornets, and the Jazz will face the Washington Wizards.