This group of guys never ceases to amaze you with the effort and the focus they come out with. —Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin
LOS ANGELES — Know that exciting future everybody keeps saying the Utah Jazz will have?
Consider this past weekend a very exciting sneak peek.
As if Derrick Favors' career night against Golden State wasn't enough of a preview Saturday in Utah, the Junior Jazz made their Hollywood premiere in a stunning and sensational 103-99 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
"This group of guys never ceases to amaze you with the effort and the focus they come out with," an elated Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "They just continue to impress with what they can do together if they stay focused and stay together as a group. This is a huge win for us."
Tinsel Town, meet Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors.
Oh, and playoff race, welcome Utah back in.
Paul Millsap led the Jazz's road show with 24 points and nine rebounds, helping the team improve to 23-22 — the first time it's been above .500 in a month.
Old Man Millsap's play was clutch, but what was arguably Utah's best win of the season — and by far its greatest accomplishment outside of the Beehive State this year — wouldn't have been possible without the guys who look like they should be playing in March Madness games.
"The experiences they had earlier in the year are paying off for us now," Corbin said of the youngsters. "They're getting in the flow and it's different guys at different times, but they're all rallying around each other and supporting each other and they're making good plays for us."
Favors, starting again while Al Jefferson spent time with his family for his grandmother's funeral, followed his 23-point, 17-rebound overtime outing against the Warriors with another double-double.
But even Favors' 12 points and 10 rebounds were overshadowed by the career-nights put up by Kanter and Burks off the bench. Each rookie scored 17 points.
Burks put on a dazzling offensive display in the fourth, including a come-out-of-nowhere tip late in the game and several aggressive and impressive drives.
Helping fill the void left by Big Al, Big Turkey — or "The Up-and-Undertaker," as Miles called the wrestling fan — played tough defense and pulled down eight rebounds along with his unexpected offensive outburst.
"Our rookies won the game for us," Miles said.
This outcome couldn't have made sense to the home crowd.
Not only did Laker All-Star center Andrew Bynum go off for 33 points and 11 rebounds, but the Jazz were without their leading scorer, Jefferson, and two veteran regulars, Raja Bell and Earl Watson.
On top of that, the Jazz had one of the worst road records in the NBA (now 6-16) while L.A. sported a league-best mark of 19-2 at home.
If you're wondering, no, the Staples Center crew did not throw out the red carpet for this group of out-of-town no-namers who lowered the Lakers' home record to 19-3.
In fact, the 18,997 Laker fans in attendance were so quiet and uneasy Sunday night, you would've thought Pauley Shore was doing a comedy act.
One thing was certain: Kobe Bryant wasn't putting on a shooting clinic. The superstar looked like somebody covered the holes on his masked face while missing 17 of his 20 field goals.
Birthday boy C.J. Miles didn't shoot much better — 2-for-11, seven points in his start — but his teammates will forgive him considering the stellar defense he played on Bryant.
"I just tried to keep my focus on trying to make it tough on him, trying to stay in front of him," Miles said. "My job was to just frustrate him. You're not going to completely stop him. He's going to make a couple of tough shots. He's going to do what he does, but the biggest thing is to make him shoot jump shots and contest him."
Bryant, hounded by Miles and Gordon Hayward, finished with just 15 points. Miles tried to be physical when Bryant was attempting to get the ball, and he varied approaches to keep him off-balance once he had possession.
Asked if this was the best he's played Bryant, Miles, still feeling sick from allergies, smiled and said, "Ever, ever, ever."
Added Miles: "It might have been my best defensive game since I've been in the league."
Josh Howard and Devin Harris both chipped in with 12 points, and the poised Jazz forced the Lakers into 24 turnovers.
The rookies, though, were the topic of conversation in the locker room and the biggest difference on the court, which is happening more and more often as this season progresses.
"It was so much fun. I had so much fun with my teammates," Kanter said. "I respect the Lakers. They were pretty good team, but we just went out there and just fight for 48 minutes. I'm happy we won the game."
Burks said he was just trying to make a difference any way he could, and did he ever while scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter.
"I was just being aggressive, trying to make the hustle plays, bring energy," he said. "That's what I'm on the court to do."
Burks believed the Jazz caught the Lakers off-guard.14 comments on this story
"I don't think they thought we was that confident and that good of young players," he said, "and we proved that we are."
The 6-foot-6 Burks also proved that he can soar with the best of them. His tip in the final moments gave the Jazz a 97-90 lead and proved to be an important bucket, holding off the Lakers who once led by 10 points themselves.
"That was for Jeremy (Evans). … He didn't think I would be up there," Burks said of his slam dunk champion teammate. "I was showing him why I'm going to take his championship next year."
Just one more thing to look forward to with this young and improving Jazz team.