The Utah Jazz beat the Los Angeles Lakers 111-97 on Monday night at Staples Center, leading the whole way and by as many as 25 points.
- In their second consecutive meeting with the Lakers, the Jazz had more of their roster available than they did on Saturday. Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley and Derrick Favors returned to play, and it was immediately clear just how much more poised and calm this team is when it has its core rotation available.
- Royce O’Neale opened up the game with a 3-pointer, got a fast break bucket on the next possession and had 7 of his 13 points by the end of the first quarter. He finished the night 5-of-5 from the floor and 3-of-3 from 3-point range and added in nine rebounds and five assists. He’s been struggling lately, so for him to have such a solid outing was much-needed and welcomed.
“I was just taking the shots that was there. Whether I was open, knocking down the 3, going to the basket, finishing it myself or making plays for somebody else, I’m just playing basketball.” —Royce O’Neale
- The difference that Gobert makes on the defensive end is insane. In the Jazz’s overtime loss to the Lakers on Saturday, Andre Drummond had 27 points and Montrezl Harrell had 12, shooting 71.4% from the field. On Monday, Drummond had just 8 points and Harrell had just 2. Gobert was incredible on the defensive end and that’s almost something that is taken for granted at this point, but when he’s out for a game and then comes back, his influence on both ends is so obvious.
- I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Favors here, too. The Lakers were probably looking to dominate the minutes in which Gobert was off the floor and they just couldn’t. Favors, dealing with a sore right knee lately, was a game-time decision and really made his presence felt.
“I know last game Ersan (Ilyasova) did a great job of spacing the floor and also defending the paint and defending the rim, too, but he’s not a rim protector, so when me and Rudy come back, we just try to play good defense, keep the guards out as much as we can.” — Derrick Favors
- Also, just real quick, Gobert’s rolls to the rim were one of the things that impressed me the most on Monday. He went up strong and made hard rolls, he wasn’t careless with the ball and he used his footwork to make things difficult for the Lakers.
- The Jazz had six players in double figures and six players who recorded either a steal or a block. It was a really well-rounded game. Of course, this is against a Lakers team that is missing its two biggest stars (two of the best players in the league in LeBron James and Anthony Davis), but the Jazz did their job and they did it well.
- Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson also had pretty well-rounded games, but Conley had 14 points, 10 assists, two rebounds and a steal. With Donovan Mitchell sidelined, Conley’s playmaking is more important than ever and he doesn’t even seem to have to shift his game at all to get it done. It’s a very veteran move to have that good of a game and for it to happen pretty quietly.
- The Lakers defense looked completely disinterested on Monday night. I have to wonder if that’s just a function of not having their best players and still needing to get it done night after night and so much more of the responsibility being on players who have never had to take on that kind of a burden. Either that, or the Jazz just broke their confidence early on in the game. No matter the reason, it doesn’t bode well to have such a lackluster defensive performance this close to the playoffs.
- If this is how Drummond and Harrell are going to play against the Jazz’s defense, then if these teams meet in the playoffs, the Lakers might be forced to play Anthony Davis at the five, which takes away some of their leverage offensively.
- It wasn’t as noticeable or egregious on Saturday, but with the Jazz’s starting rotation nearly intact (save Mitchell), the absence of James and Davis really made this game seem like it meant nothing more than just another win for the Jazz. It’s disappointing that the Jazz didn’t really get the test that many were hoping for at this point in the season. Oh well.
“No matter who we play, we take the challenge and we try to get better every night and obviously win the game. We know that when we’re going to meet them, if we meet them in the playoffs, it’s probably going to be a different team.” —Rudy Gobert
- Very bad minutes from Markieff Morris, who had just 4 points (two of which came on free throws) in 23 minutes and also finished with three fouls.