SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz probably aren't into moral victories, being a professional basketball team and all, but they got one by pushing the Los Angeles Lakers into overtime on Wednesday night.
The Jazz fell short, 90-87, but earn mostly good marks for nearly upsetting Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
GUARDS: First, the bad. Devin Harris was mostly ineffective, shooting 1-for-7 to score three points. Now, the positive. Raja Bell played the team's best defense against Bryant, and scored seven points on 3-for-4 shooting. Bell, who actually played nine minutes in the fourth quarter, would have been valuable for the Jazz in overtime, but he fouled out. Harris did dish five assists. Derek Fisher did OK for the Lakers, dishing seven assists with no turnovers, and Bryant scored 40 points.
FORWARDS:Paul Millsap was outstanding, scoring 29 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Gordon Hayward had sort of the same game as Tuesday night, shooting poorly from the field but dishing some valuable assists. He could have put the ball in a better position to Al Jefferson on Utah's next-to-last possession when the Jazz trailed 88-87. Matt Barnes was solid for the Lakers, shooting 5-for-6 for 11 points. Pau Gasol had a quiet 11 points, but hit the game's go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime. That's a shot you probably let him take as an opponent.
CENTERS: Jefferson didn't have a great game after he had been above average in Utah's last six contests. He had 11 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 5-for-17. Andrew Bynum wasn't all that great either, shooting 5-for-13 to score 12 points, but he was pretty effective on defense.
BENCH: The Jazz had to take advantage of the Lakers' thin bench and they did. Josh Howard was effective again coming off the bench and scored 18 points. Utah's reserves outscored Los Angeles' 35-11.
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COACHING: Tyrone Corbin may have made some mistakes in his unpredictable rotations. Where was Derrick Favors? He only played 11 minutes and had four points and five rebounds. He had a thunderous dunk that brought Jazz fans to their feet. Sticking with Bell until he fouled out was the right move, but again we ask, where was Favors?
OVERALL: It's OK to be satisfied with moral victories at this stage in the Jazz's development and they gave the Lakers all they could handle. They were just a few plays away from pulling off the victory and they'll learn from this defeat. Utah played good defense, but couldn't make enough shots to win. Give the Jazz credit for battling the vaunted Lakers though.