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Utah Jazz get the win and a playoff berth in LA against the Lakers

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Jazz clinch playoffs, Rubio is all smiles

NBA: Utah Jazz at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

This team. THIS. TEAM.

Utah has clinched a playoff spot with 2 games remaining, and if they win out they’ll steal the 3rd seed from the Portland Trail Blazers. The game was sloppy at times, especially in the 1st half. Utah allowed 12 offensive rebounds and turned the ball over 18 times for the game. That’s usually a recipe for a loss, but this was a wire-to-wire victory for the Utah Jazz. That’s how great this defense is.

The Los Angeles Lakers, long eliminated from playoff contention and dealing with a slew of injuries (Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Isaiah Thomas were all out), had nothing to play for. That made them a dangerous team, as they also had nothing to lose. Wounded and backed into a corner, their roster full of young players were hungry to prove they’re worth another NBA contract or more playing time.

This was a game of runs. Utah jumped to an early 15-point lead in the 1st quarter, then LA went on a run of their own. Utah took everything LA had and always answered back. The game was rarely within single-digits, and it really didn’t seem like the game was ever in question for the Jazz, despite their sloppy play (particularly in the 1st half).

Josh Hart, Tyler Ennis, and Julius Randle were the only bright spots for LA today, combining for 64 points on 25/48 from the field, 17 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals, and 2 blocks. The rest of the Lakers were awful, especially Brook Lopez, who was 0-10 from the floor (DPOY Gobert factor).

Utah’s defense was the fuel was this win. They held the Lakers to 39.8% from the floor, 20% from 3, and limited LA to just 20 assists. They made enough plays and enough shots on the other end to take care of business.

Donovan Mitchell was superb, recording a near triple-double with 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists to go along with a steal and a block. After today’s game, he’s at 182 3-pointers made, just 3 shy of Damian Lillard’s rookie record with 2 games to play. He had a number of eye-popping highlight plays, including these gems:

Joe Ingles put together a nice game, scoring 22 points to go along with 10 assists. He was doing it all this afternoon, including this off-the-dribble YAM in traffic:

Royce O’Neale and Jae Crowder were huge off the bench today, Ricky Rubio was stellar in 18 short minutes, and Derrick Favors was a game-high +30 (!!) with a double-double. Dante Exum had a few nice moments, including a few lightning-fast drives to the rim. Gobert dealt with foul trouble and played limited minutes, but was still solid defensively. He’s likely unhappy with his performance, though. Expect a big bounce-back game at home vs the Warriors.

The Jazz were sloppy. But they got the job done and executed their gameplan, racking up 35 assists on 42 made field goals (!!!!), and holding their opponent under 100 for an NBA-best 26th time since January 24th.

There are still things to improve (turnovers, free throw shooting, Jae Crowder’s shot selection), but this is a dangerous team that has peaked at the right time. They’ll make noise this postseason.

For the first time in his NBA career, Ricky Rubio will play in the postseason. I wonder how Ricky feels about that...

Final thought: Donovan continues to say all the right things. He doesn’t care about individual awards. He cares about team success and winning a championship. Take a look at his postgame interview:

Well done today, gents. #OnToTheNextOne

And just a reminder... he knew. #DPOY