The lineups will surely look different if they face each other in the Western Conference playoffs, but the Utah Jazz avoided a mini two-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.
After losing Saturday's matchup in overtime, Utah defeated Los Angeles 111-97 in the rematch at Staples Center. Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert led the way in the absence of Donovan Mitchell for the victors and helped them improve to 43-15 on the season.
Solid showing from Kyle Kuzma, Dennis Schroder and Talen Horton-Tucker were not enough for the 35-23 Lakers, who remained without LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Notable Player Stats
- Mike Conley, G, UTA: 14 PTS, 10 AST, 2 REB
- Rudy Gobert, C, UTA: 14 PTS, 10 REB, 2 BLK
- Jordan Clarkson, G, UTA: 22 PTS, 3 REB
- Joe Ingles, G, UTA: 21 PTS, 5 AST, 4 REB
- Kyle Kuzma, F, LAL: 17 PTS, 3 AST, 2 REB
- Dennis Schroder, G, LAL: 15 PTS, 6 AST, 4 REB, 4 STL
- Talen Horton-Tucker, G, LAL: 24 PTS, 4 REB, 2 STL
Balanced Utah Attack Leads the Way in L.A.
While Utah was still without Mitchell and also didn't have Ersan Ilyasova, the return of Conley and Gobert provided a boost that was missing in Saturday's game.
Clarkson and Ingles were thrust into the spotlight in the previous matchup without those two to help share the scoring responsibilities in Mitchell's absence. Clarkson scored a team-high 27 points on a game-high 27 shots, while Ingles dished out 14 assists to go with his 20 points.
Even with the return of the two All-Stars, it was Clarkson once again who paced the Jazz in scoring as they built a double-digit lead by halftime. He provided an immediate spark off the bench and glided his way through the defense while creating a number of clean looks.
It wasn't just him, as supporting cast members Royce O'Neale and Bojan Bogdanovic were in double figures by intermission with Conley dishing out dimes and controlling the flow of the game.
The balanced offensive onslaught was at its best in the third quarter as the Jazz poured in 33 points and pulled away.
Ingles, Conley, Bogdanovic and O'Neale all found their touch from deep, Gobert controlled the glass, and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference essentially put the game away all while playing impressive defense.
Six players ended up in double figures as a reminder of just how deep and scary this Jazz team can be to the rest of the league even with their best offensive player sidelined.
Poor Offensive Showing Ends Lakers' Chances
As the Lakers continue to look for consistent options outside of LeBron and AD, the win over the Jazz wasn't the only good news from Saturday.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Schroder and, perhaps most notably, Andre Drummond each scored 25 or more points in the win. Considering Drummond had a combined seven in the previous two games, the performance was a welcome one for the Lakers even if Gobert was sidelined.
That offensive explosion was largely missing Monday, as only Kuzma was in double figures by halftime for the home team.
Fortunately for the Lakers, the league's top-rated defense and hot shooting from the outside from Caldwell-Pope, Horton-Tucker and Schroder temporarily kept them within striking distance even though they managed just 19 points in the second quarter.
Horton-Tucker and Kuzma continued to play well into the second half, but there weren't many bright spots for the Lakers while the game was still hanging in the balance.
The team as a whole shot better from three-point range than inside the arc through three quarters as well, which is partially a testament to Gobert's ability to protect the rim and partially a result of the combined struggles of Drummond and Montrezl Harrell (4-of-16 combined from the field).
These games are largely just dress rehearsals for Los Angeles until its stars return, but the lack of firepower without James and Davis was on full display against one of the league's best squads.
Both teams are on the road for their next game when the Jazz face the Houston Rockets on Wednesday and the Lakers play the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.