The game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz Friday night didn’t give any indication that it would be a down-to-the-wire, electric finish, nor did the game’s beginnings bear any hallmarks of this turning into the most enjoyable game of the season. However, both of those things happened as the Jazz beat the Lakers 105-103, behind 18 points and 14 rebounds from Derrick Favors.
The game was the most exciting of of the season for a couple of reasons, namely the Jazz winning a very close contest at home, while beating a team with whom Utah has a great rivalry. The final minutes when the game was decided was very enjoyable as well. The finish was as close as it’s been all season for the Jazz, and after a lackluster first half, a bit of excitement was a welcome addition to the game for the sellout crowd in Energy Solutions Arena.
After three quarters of basketball, Utah had an 83-81 lead, but that situation didn’t last for long. The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth struggle between two teams who are more evenly matched than they appear on paper. The Jazz are 9-23 to the Lakers’ 13-17, but with the way the two teams played Friday night, their records seemed irrelevant.
Nick Young, who’s been a big spark for the Lakers off the bench this season, scored 21 points in 28 minutes before fouling out with only 5:45 left to go in the game. Considering his influence on the Lakers, and especially during the course of this game, then ending might have been different had Young been able to stay on the court.
The Jazz seized an opportunity, however, and had a 97-92 lead with only 4:50 left to play. However, the Lakers weren’t quite done, and managed to go on a 7-2 and tie the game at 99 off of a three from Jodie Meeks with 2:37 to go.
At this point, the fans really started getting into the game. A Friday night tussle between the Jazz and the Lakers can almost always be guaranteed as a great game, but this one managed to exceed expectations, and the home crowd made their presence known in a big way.
“The crowd has always been tremendous, and we appreciate their energy,” Jazz coach Ty Corbin said after the game.
After Meeks’ three tied the game up at 99, the crowd roared back onto their feet after Gordon Hayward – who finished with 24 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds – nailed a big-time three pointer to give the Jazz a 102-99 edge with 1:40 left.
Los Angeles had one last spurt left in them, however, and with only 18.6 left to go in the game, the score was knotted up at 103.
The Jazz had the ball out of a timeout, and immediately looked for Hayward, who was cutting towards the hoop off a down screen. He rose in the paint for a floater, which bounced off the rim, only to be grabbed by Favors and thrown down through the nylon with 2.1 seconds left, giving Utah a 105-103 lead.
Meeks had the ball in his hand for the Lakers for the final shot, and missed a prayer of a three pointer, sealing the win for the Jazz. The play was an interesting one to say the least, and didn’t look like what Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni wanted to run coming out of the final timeout.
“It wasn’t good. We broke it early and it wasn’t executed real well,” D’Antoni said after the game.
Lakers center Chris Kaman, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, agreed with his coach.
“We just didn’t play good….in the second half, we couldn’t get any stops,” Kaman said.
The crowd was absolutely sensational for the Jazz Friday night, but the play from Utah was worth all the cheers. Five players scored in double figures for the Jazz, with all of them scoring at least 13 points. Hayward led the way for the Jazz with 24 points, followed up by Favors with 18.
Utah managed to score 105 points a game, which was great for a team that’s struggled to score this season. The pace of the game was very important, and was a big factor in the win for Utah.
“It’s huge,” Jazz forward Marvin Williams said. “The Lakers and coach D’Antoni do a great job of making teams play at their pace, they wanna get up and down and take quick shots, and at times we kind of fell into that trap.”
All in all, for a team that just went 2-3 on it’s annual pre-Christmas road trip, this win was a great one for the Jazz, and hopefully they can carry that momentum forward into Saturday night’s matchup against the Clippers in Los Angeles.