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After big win over Spurs, Jazz await Lakers Wednesday night

SALT LAKE CITY — At 21-34, the Utah Jazz are a long way from making the NBA playoffs — nine and a half games behind No. 8 Oklahoma City to be exact. Even a 27-game winning streak from here on out would likely leave them short of a Western Conference playoff berth.

But the Jazz can take some pride in the way they’ve played against some of the NBA’s top teams that will be participating in the playoffs come April, May and June.

Already this year, the Jazz have defeated the West’s top two teams, Golden State and Memphis, five of the top eight Eastern Conference teams as well as likely playoff teams Portland and Oklahoma City. And they’ve beaten the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs twice, including a 90-81 victory Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

The Jazz, who also beat the Spurs 100-96 in December, dominated from early in the first quarter to the finish as they displayed energy throughout the game and made the older Spurs look, well, old.

In the victory, they held the Spurs to their lowest point total of the season, three days after holding Portland to its lowest point total of the season in a 92-76 victory. Their defense limited Spurs’ stars Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to 14, 8, 8 and 5 points, respectively.

“Our guys just tried to come out and play hard,’’ said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “Sometimes you play well, and we played well tonight.''

Snyder was particularly pleased with his defense, something he’s been stressing since Day One as the Jazz coach.

“Everybody’s trying to do their part,’’ he said. “We’re trying to build an identity. It’s a long haul. It’s a thousand little decisions to put yourself in a position where you’re capable. The guys are working and that’s really all it comes down to.’’

Snyder had praise for several Jazz players, including Trey Burke, who got it done on both ends of the court, scoring a game-high 23 points and helping hold Parker to five points.

“Coach Snyder holds us accountable every single day on defense,’’ Burke said, while holding his 8-month-old son on his lap at his locker. "It’s something he prioritizes at a high level and it’s something we’re getting better at. Today when I came in he said 'this should be your best defensive game' and I just try to live up to that challenge. It’s something I need to do every game.’’

Now the Jazz have the opportunity to do something they haven’t done all season — get their first three-game winning streak Wednesday night when the Los Angeles Lakers come to town.

The Lakers are in the midst of their worst season in history at 14-41 and come to Salt Lake having lost 16 of their last 18 games, although they did win their last game, Sunday night at home against Boston, 118-111 in overtime.

The depleted Lakers lost their first-round draft choice Julius Randle in the first week of the season, and Kobe Bryant played off and on this season before going out for good with a torn rotator cuff late last month.

In the victory over Boston, the Lakers’ top scorers came off the bench as Jeremy Lin scored 25 points with six assists, Wesley Johnson had 22 and Nick Young 19. Former Jazzman Carlos Boozer was the highest-scoring starter with 12 points, and he led the team with eight rebounds.

After playing the Lakers, the Jazz will go to Denver for a game Friday night before returning to play Milwaukee Saturday night. Then it's off on a four-game road trip to Memphis, Boston, Philadelphia and Brooklyn next week.