Jazz Fall To Lakers, Now Tied With Suns In Loss Column
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz dropped a thrilling overtime matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers 127-115 and now find themselves tied with the Phoenix Suns in the loss column for the best record in the NBA.
The two teams were short-handed as Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Derrick Favors all missed the game for the Jazz due to various injuries.
The Lakers were once again without LeBron James and Antony Davis who have missed significant time with the roster with Achilles and ankle injuries.
Jordan Clarkson scored 27 points for the Jazz while Ersan Ilyasova and Joe Ingles added 20 points each, but couldn’t keep pace with the Lakers in overtime.
Jazz Reserves Nearly Steal Game In Regulation
While both teams were missing major contributors, the Jazz faced long odds of staying in the game considering the gap in experience between the two teams.
However, a 15-0 run late in the fourth quarter from the Jazz previously unseen lineups helped push the Lakers into an extra period.
Clarkson hit a three-pointer with eight seconds left in regulation that gave the Jazz a two-point lead but Dennis Schroder converted an easy layin against Royce O’Neale to force overtime.
Ultimately, the Jazz ran out of gas in overtime getting outscored 17-5 while connecting on just 2-11 shots from the field over the final five minutes of the game.
Ilyasova played 31 minutes for the Jazz in just his ninth outing with the team but made his impact felt throughout the game. The veteran started at center for the Jazz and knocked down five first-quarter three-pointers to set the tone against the bigger Andre Drummond.
Ilyasova matched his career-high with six made threes but fouled out midway through the overtime period to leave the Jazz shot on experienced bodies.
“His aggressiveness early is something that we want from him,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “It allows us to space the floor from another position and I think it’s reflected in the number of threes that he got up.”
But it wasn’t just the offensive side of the floor where Ilyasova made his impact felt. The Turkish big man was at a size disadvantage against much of the Lakers frontcourt though he made up for it with active hands forcing loose balls and making an impressive block on Kyle Kuzma at the rim.
With a fully healthy Jazz roster, it’s improbable that Ilyasova finds major minutes in the rotation. But, the veteran’s performance likely gave Snyder confidence to use him in a playoff game if the team needed him in a pinch.
The Jazz also relied heavily on little-used Trent Forrest, Matt Thomas, Jarrell Brantley, Juwan Morgan, and Miye Oni who combined to play more than 45 of the Jazz 67 bench minutes. While George Niang scored nine points for the Jazz, the other five reserves scored just six points total, all of which came from Morgan highlighting the team’s inexperience towards the end of the roster.
While the Lakers were without their two best players, all five bench players have seen significant minutes this season and throughout their careers. In total, the Lakers reserves have started 1,036 games with 1,917 games played overall.
The Jazz reserves have played 419 career games with just four career starts. The Lakers’ least experienced reserve, Talen Horton-Tucker, has as many career starts as the entire Jazz second unit combined.
Considering the talent and experience gap between the two teams, the Jazz should be satisfied with how they competed against the Lakers.
Jazz Tied With Suns In Loss Column
Though the outcome may have been a moral victory for the Jazz, it does put them into a tie in the loss column with the Suns as both teams now have 15 losses on the season. With just 15 games remaining on the schedule, the Jazz own a one-game lead over Phoenix, though that can be cut to a half-game with a Suns victory against the San Antonio Spurs tonight.
The Jazz have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the NBA as the Suns prepare for a brutal five-game east coast road trip that will likely determine the final seeding in the Western Conference. But, with Donovan Mitchell’s ankle injury likely to keep the guard out through at least the next week, the Jazz stranglehold on the West is now in more serious doubt.
The Suns have won 14 of their last 16 games making a furious push up the standings to challenge the Jazz for the best record in the NBA and would own the tie-breaker against the Jazz at season’s end.
The Jazz meanwhile are just 4-4 in their last eight games and have lost three straight away from home.
Owning home-court advantage over the Suns would be crucial if the two teams were to meet in the Western Conference Finals, though entering the playoffs healthy and well-rested will be a higher priority for the Jazz.
Furthermore, if the Jazz were to slip out of the top seed, they could potentially avoid a healthy Lakers team in the second round as Los Angeles is set to face the Denver Nuggets in the 4-5 matchup based on the current standings.
How serious the Jazz are about owning the top seed in the league will be determined by how Snyder adjusts his rotation over the final 15 games of the season. After playing the Lakers on Monday, the Jazz will have four straight games against teams positioned in the bottom four seeds of the West.
With the Suns difficult stops in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Boston, Brooklyn, and New York, the Jazz could put significant distance between themselves and Phoenix by playing their full roster over the next week and a half.
If rest is the priority, the Jazz could again turn to their less experienced players as they did against the Lakers, setting up a potentially enormous matchup against the Suns in Phoenix on April 30.
Ultimately, the Jazz final seeding may be determined over the next 10 days.