Behind Hayward and Hood, tired Jazz able to defeat lousy Lakers
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers are not a good basketball team. In fact, they’re a pretty bad team with the second-worst record in the NBA. And without perennial all-star Kobe Bryant and No. 2 draft pick DeAngelo Russell in the lineup, they are a really bad team.
A tired Utah Jazz team, playing its fourth game in five nights and fifth game in a week, didn’t play all that great Sunday night but still had enough in the tank to hold off the lousy Lakers 86-74 at the Staples Center.
“It’s a great win, to win the fourth in four of five is hard to do and these guys they gutted it out,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “The Lakers play really hard and we felt we’d have to match their intensity and I think our guys did that and we made some big plays at the end of the game.”
The Jazz held the Lakers to their lowest point total of the season and nearly to their lowest total in team history (70) and the Lakers shot a season-low 32.6 percent from the field.
Coming off a season-high 34 points the night before, Gordon Hayward led the Jazz again with 25 points, including a couple of clutch shots in the fourth quarter when the Lakers were finally getting back in the game.
“It definitely wasn’t pretty . . . our fourth game in five nights, on the road, a back-to-back . . . We’re just happy to find a way to win. We played well defensively and were able to score enough points to beat them.”
The Jazz were happy to welcome back Rodney Hood, just three nights after it looked like he suffered a serious ankle injury in the loss at Houston. Hood scored 14 points and also had six rebounds and four assists while producing a plus-18 in his tie on the floor.
Hood had missed Saturday night’s win over Miami and said his ankle was sore, but it loosened up as the game wore on.
“We really defended well the first half, especially the first half,” Hood said. “It wasn’t the prettiest game to win the game. We all made little plays down the stretch. We’re happy to come out with this win.”
The Jazz were coming off one of their better victories of the season a 98-83 win over the Miami Heat, the team with the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference, just 24 hours earlier. As bad as the Lakers record is this year, they have been playing better of late and nearly beat Oklahoma City two nights earlier before faltering at the end 117-113.
However, the Jazz got a break when they found out that Bryant wouldn’t play because of a strained Achilles, an injury that happened in the fourth quarter Friday, nor would Russell, who had scored a career-high 27 points on Thursday night before injuring his ankle on Friday.
The Jazz led 15-14 after one of the worst quarters in the NBA all season but stretched the lead to 43-30 at halftime and 63-50 after three quarters.
Snyder showed confidence in rookie Raul Neto, letting him play the majority of the fourth quarter instead of Trey Burke and the rookie came through with two big baskets.
First he hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Jazz up 72-58 with 5:30 left and two minutes later made a nice drive down the right side and came up on the other side with a reverse layup to put the Jazz up 76-64.
“He hit a couple of big shots,” said Snyder. “He’s been working defensively and was able to come down on the offensive end and make a couple of plays.”
With less than two minutes left, the Lakers got some life and the crowd was getting raucous when they cut the lead to eight at 78-70.
But Hayward quieted the crowd with a spectacular shot, as he drove down the right side, stepped back, and with a hand in his face, hung in the air, before firing up a 10-footer on the baseline that hit nothing but net, making it 80-70 with 1:18 left.
“One of my favorite parts of the game is quieting the crowd,” said Hayward. “I kind of got isolated and made a play.”
The Lakers were led by Lou Williams who scored 18 points, but it was a far cry from the 44 he scored Friday against OKC. Jordan Clarkson added 14 and Julius Randle had 11 off the bench.
Now the Jazz get a little breather with two days before their next game at Portland Wednesday night. Then it’s back home for games against Sacramento Thursday and the Lakers again on Saturday.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity recently with this team recently, so I was just proud of the way we fought battled and got the win,’’ said Hayward.
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