The Utah Jazz secured a 132-123 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, demonstrating their growing prowess on the court. Lauri Markkanen led the charge for Utah with an impressive 29 points, nine rebounds, and five assists.
Jazz's Resurgence Under Hardy
The Jazz's triumph at home marks their eighth consecutive win on their turf and their fifth overall.
This victory also places Utah over .500 for the first time this season, a notable turnaround considering their sluggish start with only seven wins in their first 23 games. Under coach Will Hardy, the team has not only achieved its first five-game winning streak but has also begun to carve out a new identity.
"It’s taken a while, but I think we’re finding an identity on both ends of the floor and we’re able to execute night in and night out,” Markkanen stated, reflecting on the team's evolving gameplay.Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson made significant contributions with 27 and 21 points, respectively, while John Collins and Keyonte George each added 19 points. Collins also secured a team-high 13 rebounds, bolstering the Jazz's presence on the boards.
Lakers' Struggles and Utah's Strategic Play
The Lakers, hindered by LeBron James's absence due to a left ankle injury, still saw a triple-double from Anthony Davis. However, Utah's strategic play in transition and capitalization on turnovers shifted the game's momentum.
Coach Hardy emphasized the team's speed and execution in transition as key factors in their win. D’Angelo Russell led the Lakers with a season-high 39 points and eight assists, but the team's inconsistency in balancing offense and defense was evident.
"When our offense is going, it’s our defense that’s not. When our defense is going, it’s our offense that’s not,” Russell commented, highlighting the team's ongoing challenges.Utah's decisive 15-3 run in the third quarter, punctuated by Markkanen and Kris Dunn's 3-pointers, proved crucial in gaining the upper hand.
Despite the Lakers narrowing the gap to three points in the final quarter, Utah maintained their lead and eventually stretched it to a double-digit advantage. Markkanen's and Sexton's proficiency at the free-throw line was pivotal, especially in the fourth quarter, with the Jazz going 17 of 19 from the line.
The game saw a total of 63 free throw attempts, a fact that Los Angeles coach Darvin Ham noted as disruptive to the game's flow. Despite the Lakers' strong start, led by Reaves and Russell, Utah's resilience and strategic adjustments under Hardy's guidance were too much to overcome, showcasing their potential as a formidable force in the league.