On a night that most Jazz fans had penciled in their calendars for months to see how the Utah Jazz would stack up against the Los Angeles Lakers, it felt a little empty as the Lakers were without both Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder to injury. The Jazz won easily in a game that was never in question 114 - 89.
Mike Conley, fresh off his latest all-star snub, played with a little bit of fire with a three pointer to start the game followed by a quick steal and a layup. Conley added a couple of assists and another three as he controlled the tempo and put the Jazz up early 13-9 early.
The Jazz were hitting plenty of their shots early on, but couldn’t pull away due to turnovers and undisciplined defense. The turnovers seemed mostly unforced mental lapses. Rudy Gobert, despite hustling, had trouble keeping up with Lebron James and the Lakers kept burning past Jazz perimeter defenders.
A nice three by Joe Ingles helped the Jazz to take a one point lead to end the first, 24-23
The Jazz opened up the second quarter with an incredible sequence full of great defense and a barrage of three pointers after a beautiful floater from Jordan Clarkson.
Royce O’neal stole the King’s lunch before taking it over to Zion and nailing a three. Conley hit another three to put the Jazz up ten in the blink of an eye. The Jazz were also playing defense with integrity and purpose.
That sequence of defense and threes shows exactly why this Jazz team is dangerous— SLC Dunk (@slcdunk) February 25, 2021
I thought Donovan Mitchell looked a bit off to start the game, on both ends of the floor. I was impressed, however, with his ability to change the game in the second half even when his shots weren’t falling. In one quick sequence, he fought for a tough offensive rebound that led to a three by Bojan Bogdonavich. Mitchell followed with a three of his own, his first bucket of the game.
Gobert closed out the half with a nice dunk to put the Jazz up 63-47 at the half. Jazz tie the franchise record for threes in a half with 14.
Bogie hit a three to open the third. Mitchell followed it with a steal and lob to Gobert for a dunk on the other end. The next time down the floor, Mitchell hit Gobert for another lob, making it look easy.
The Lakers, coming into the second half, obviously placed an emphasis on having perimeter players avoid helping in the paint, and instead closing out the three point shot for the Jazz.
The Laker’s strategy didn’t work at all. The Jazz ran the pick and roll to perfection and the Lakers could not stop the Jazz at the rim in the third. The Jazz spent the quarter absolutely feasting at the rim.
Lebron did his best to carry the Lakers back into the game, but Lebron was no match for the Jazz on his own.
When LeBron goes up, get out the way. pic.twitter.com/xSHBnAhroB— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 25, 2021
After the dunk by Lebron, Donovan Mitchell came back with an emphatic dunk of his own to let the King know his claim to the throne is officially being challenged.
Mitchell had another highlight play off an inbounds play, hitting a deep three as the shot clock expired.
The Jazz entered the final frame up 90-64. The fourth quarter was mostly garbage time, practice, and stat chasing for the Jazz. With Lebron done for the night and the Jazz up big, I was surprised to see Quin Snyder leave Mitchell in the game to chase a triple double, before eventually pulling the plug with just under five minutes left.
It would be silly to give out an MVP to a single player for tonight’s game. Tonight, the Jazz epitomized what it means to be a team, and, thus, the MVP award goes to the entire Jazz squad.
WIth the shots not falling, Jazz leading scorer Donvoan Mitchell found other ways to impact the game nearly finishing with his first triple double. He had 13 points, going 4-16 from the field with ten rebounds, eight assists, and two steals.
Without Mitchell carrying his usual scoring load, the Jazz didn’t miss a beat. They finished with six players scoring in double digits: Clarkson and Gobert had 18 each, Bogdonavic had 15, and Conley had 14 points to go with his eight assists and eight rebounds.
Despite the Lakers being without Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder, I have a feeling that this game may change the narrative a bit for the Jazz. It was on national television, and, make no mistake about it, the Jazz absolutely demolished the Lakers tonight in every part of the game from three point shooting, to defense, to the pick and roll, to hustle, and to effort. The Jazz looked better and they looked hungrier.
Mark Jackson started off the game by broadcasting heaps of praise on the Jazz. In the first quarter, he said that while he wouldn’t pick the Jazz, he wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if they won the championship. By midway through the third quarter, Jackson’s take had escalated to the Jazz being the “frontrunners” for the NBA championship.
There was only one legitimate concern from tonight’s game: The Jazz lack size and strength outside of Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. I think that this was apparent against both the Clippers and the Lakers.
Royce O’Neal has done admirably this season as a defender, but he does lack size against players like Lebron James and Kawhi Leonard. Can the Jazz guard them effectively enough over seven games to win a series? It should be a point of emphasis for the Jazz moving forward.
Who can guard Lebron or Kawhi outside of O’neal? Maybe a bit of Ingles? I thought Niang looked vulnerable against both the Lakers and the Clippers. While Niang has exceeded expectations at times this season, I wonder how playable he will be in the playoffs.