Jazz take down yet another supposed playoff team in road win over Lakers

Jazz take down yet another supposed playoff team in road win over Lakers

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — The Los Angeles Lakers got a throwback performance from Russell Westbrook. They got a near triple-double from LeBron James. They also got a 22-point night from Anthony Davis.

That wasn’t enough to beat the Utah Jazz.

With 1:25 left to play, Jordan Clarkson drove inside and delivered a two-handed flush — and then pulled himself up above the rim.

At that point, it was all fun and games.

Utah went to Los Angeles and beat the Lakers 130-116 Friday at Crypto.com Arena. The Jazz improved to 7-3 on the season, finishing their first 10 games on a 57-win pace — just what everyone expected.

Utah had five players score 15 or more points, and was led by Lauri Markkanen’s 27-point performance. Markkanen was 9-of-17 from the field and added 13 rebounds.

Jordan Clarkson added 20 points, Kelly Olynyk added 18 points, and Mike Conley finished with 15 points and 10 assists. Conley had 8 points in the fourth quarter to finish off the Lakers.

As a whole, it was an impressive offensive performance from Utah. The Jazz shot 50.5% from the field and 42.5% from behind the 3-point line. They also had 31 assists to just seven turnovers.

Los Angeles entered the game as the league’s third-best defense, and Utah hung 130 points and finished with a 134 offensive rating. So how did they do it?

“I think if you keep the ball on one side of the floor, their length can swallow you up a little bit,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said of the Lakers’ defense.

So for the Jazz, the game plan was simple: Don’t get in that situation. That was where the ball movement that has made Utah such an entertaining team thus far this season came into play. Utah was quick to drive and kick out to shooters, and then swing the ball around until either an open shot or an open lane became available.

“I think the spacing is the biggest difference for us,” Conley said. “… And we’re so unselfish that the ball’s just moving around and pinging and every one of the five guys can beat you off the dribble and make plays.”

That includes two seven footers in Markkanen and Olynyk that have made the Jazz a difficult cover this season. Markkanen, especially, was fantastic on Friday in attacking the rim on drives, which led to easy buckets for himself or his teammates.

“Yeah, 27 points, 13 rebounds, zero turnovers — I thought he did a great job on both ends,” Hardy said of Markkanen. “I think Lauri does a lot of things that show up in the stat sheet and he does a lot of things that don’t. His defense probably isn’t talked about enough.”

Markkanen helped limit James to a 7-for-19 night. James finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, but spent most of the night frustrated with the lack of calls. Davis had 22 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers.

The Jazz opened up a 16-point lead in the third quarter, but in a bit of a surprise, Westbrook, the much-maligned former MVP, brought the Lakers back.

Westbrook finished with 28 points and six assists off the bench, and helped Los Angeles cut Utah’s lead down to just 2 near the end of the third quarter.

With Crypto.com Arena buzzing, the Jazz had an answer. And the initial response came from an unlikely source: Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

With the Jazz struggling to close out the third, Hardy turned to Alexander-Walker to help settle things down. He came in with the Jazz up by 2; he left with the lead back up to 10. The Jazz starters finished things off from there.

And Utah was soon collecting their sixth win over a team that was widely projected to make the playoffs.

But so far the Jazz have shown projections can be very wrong.

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Ryan Miller has covered the Utah Jazz for KSL.com since 2018.

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