SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz are an offensive juggernaut that isn’t slowing down for anyone — including the defending NBA champions.
Utah routed the Los Angeles Lakers 114-89 on Wednesday night after making a barrage of 3-pointers and shutting things down on the defensive end.
The Jazz made 22 3-pointers and shot 46% from long distance. Defensively, they held the Lakers to 40% shooting, including 8 of 33 from 3-point range.
"It’s all about getting better,” center Rudy Gobert said. “We did a great job sharing the ball offensively. When we defend and we share the ball, it’s hard to beat us.”
Gobert led the way with 18 points and nine rebounds to help Utah (26-6) win for the 22nd time in its last 24 games — with 20 of those victories coming by double-digits.
Jordan Clarkson added 18 points and Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 15 points. Mike Conley had 14 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, and Donovan Mitchell finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists.
As a team, the Jazz had 28 assists on 41 baskets.
“The fact that we have a lot of guys that are capable of making plays, and our team likes to play that way, that’s part of who we are and part of our identity,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
LeBron James scored 19 points and Montrzel Harrell added 16 to lead the Lakers (22-11), who lost their fourth straight and fifth in six games.
Los Angeles has struggled without Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder in the lineup. Still, James is confident the Lakers can regain their form as the season progresses.
“Everyone is put in positions that they wouldn’t be put in under normal circumstances,” James said. “It’s always about staying confident, continuing to give my teammates the courage and the confidence out there on the floor and to make plays.
"It’s a tough stretch for us, but this won’t define what we will be for the rest of the season and for the long haul.”
Back-to-back baskets from James and Marc Gasol gave the Lakers a 17-13 lead as Los Angeles hung with Utah for a quarter. But the final three quarters belonged to the Jazz.
Utah scored baskets on four straight possessions — starting with back-to-back buckets from Clarkson — to take a 35-25 lead early in the second quarter. Clarkson, Royce O’Neale and Conley each hit a 3-pointer in that stretch. That was a sneak preview of Utah’s barrage of outside baskets.
The Jazz made eight 3-pointers during the second quarter and shot 14 of 23 (.609) from long distance in the first half. They built a 63-47 halftime lead after Mitchell drained a 3 and Gobert followed with back-to-back baskets over Utah’s final three possessions of the half.
The Jazz slammed the door early in the third quarter when Gobert threw down back-to-back alley-oop dunks to extend Utah’s lead to 71-47.
“They’re the hottest team in the league,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Nobody’s playing as well as the Utah Jazz in the NBA right now, the way they’re shooting the ball, the way they’re connected defensively, the continuity bump that they’re getting by having the same team come back.”
Lakers: Talen Horton-Tucker made his first start of the season and the second of his NBA career. Horton-Tucker had a team-high five assists. … Los Angeles scored eight points off Utah’s first four turnovers in the first quarter.
Jazz: Mitchell led Utah in rebounds for the first time this season. … The Jazz made at least 20 3-pointers for the 11th time this season, moving them into a third-place tie with the 2019-20 Dallas Mavericks for the most such games in a season. Utah shot 22 of 48 from 3-point range overall.
Both Conley and Mitchell came within striking distance of earning the first regular-season triple-double for the Jazz since 2008 before Snyder pulled his starters midway through the fourth quarter. Conley finished two rebounds and two assists shy of the mark. Mitchell came up two assists short.
Conley, who got passed over for a spot on the Western Conference team for the upcoming NBA All-Star game, said the all-around effort from him and Mitchell made a case that Utah deserved more all-star selections beyond Mitchell and Gobert.
“We’re making history in so many ways,” Conley said. “We should have been rewarded for that.”
Former Jazz player Elijah Millsap tweeted before Wednesday’s game that Dennis Lindsey, the team’s current executive vice president of basketball operations, used racially charged language toward him in April 2015 during a season exit interview with both Lindsey and Snyder present.
Lindsey denied making that statement. Snyder said after the game he does not recall the specifics of that conversation from six years ago but doesn't believe the then-Jazz GM would use such language toward a player.
“I can’t fathom Dennis saying something like that,” Snyder said.
Millsap, the younger brother of Nuggets forward Paul Millsap, appeared in 67 games and made five starts with Utah over parts of two seasons from 2014-16. He averaged 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Lakers: Host the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
Jazz: Visit the Miami Heat on Friday.
By JOHN COON Associated Press