Guys are just playing unselfishly by moving the ball. —Jazz forward Derrick Favors
LOS ANGELES — The big-time marquee stars weren’t shining in Los Angeles Thursday.
Not on the court at least.
With both teams battling a bevy of injuries, the surging Utah Jazz entered the Staples Center Thursday night to face the Los Angeles Clippers.
For Los Angeles, that meant no Blake Griffin (knee), Patrick Beverley (knee) and Milos Teodosic (foot).
Utah was forced to play without Rudy Gobert (knee), Joe Johnson (wrist), Raul Neto (hamstring), Rodney Hood (ankle) and Dante Exum (shoulder).
Even with the game’s injury report reading more like a checklist for Santa Claus, guys stepped up in their absence to contribute major roles — notably Alec Burks, who came off the bench to chip in a season-high 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists while veteran forward Thabo Sefolosha added 15 points.
Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell also threw down a pair of thunderous dunks worthy of SportsCenter Top 10 attention as Utah was able to collect its fourth straight victory and second on the road, 126-107. Mitchell ended with 24 points and six assists but his high-flying alley-oop off a Joe Ingles lob in the second quarter and his fast-break one-handed jam in the fourth were both eye-popping.
Road wins aren’t easy to come by nowadays, and Jazz coach Quin Snyder understands the difficulty.
“Well they’re trying. The Clippers are in a tough spot right now,” Snyder said. “We play these games and we realize that we’re depleted but they’re in a tough spot so you feel for them but you want to play the same way no matter who we’re playing, and we want the guys to be unselfish and that’s what they did tonight.”
Without Griffin, Clippers coach Doc Rivers started former Louisville player Montrezl Harrell, who finished with 13 points in 20 minutes.
Austin Rivers and Lou Williams were also aggressive from the tipoff, combining for 45 points with 25 and 20 individually, but Utah’s ball movement and floor spacing helped the Jazz pull away by as many as 24 points on the night.
Five Jazz players logged five or more assists as the squad ended with 38 total assists as a sign of their unselfishness.
“Guys are just playing unselfishly by moving the ball,” said Jazz forward Derrick Favors, who posted his fourth double-double with 12 points and 12 boards. “Guys are getting open on the perimeter, in the paint, we’re just moving the ball, being unselfish, finding the open guy, and everybody’s involved.
“Once that happens, that’s the best way to play basketball.”
Snyder described Utah’s defense in the first half as “awful.” Although the game was knotted 61-61, the Clippers shot 59.5 percent from the field, led by Rivers with 18 points.
Utah also connected on 58.1 percent of its shots, but guys weren’t buying into playing on the other end of the floor.
“We got pleased with ourselves because we were scoring,” Snyder said. “I thought the second half, we dug in a little bit and they played really well.”
During the third and fourth quarters, the Jazz really took command as seven players finished in double figures. At one point during the fourth quarter, Utah also went on a 21-4 run to maintain the eighth spot in the NBA Western Conference standings.
"Lou (Williams) and Austin (Rivers) were gassed a little bit, and it's tough when they had the ball the entire game," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. "I though we had good movement in the first half, and I loved how we played offensively, but defensively we struggled."
The Jazz (11-11) will return home to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.