SALT LAKE CITY — For the second time in two months, the Utah Jazz proved they don't even need LeBron James to play in order to beat his team at Vivint Arena.
With James sitting this one out for what Los Angeles described as "load management," the Jazz dominated the second half en route to a 115-100 victory over the LeBron-less Lakers at Vivint Arena.
James also missed the Jazz's 113-95 win in Utah back in January while he was out with a strained left groin. The self-proclaimed King's teams had lost the previous seven games in SLC — and he actually played in those.
Utah has now won three in a row and eight of nine to climb back into the No. 5 spot. The Jazz are tied with the good team from Los Angeles — the Clippers — with a record of 45-30.
Utah's magic number for a third-straight playoff berth is now one, meaning the Jazz need one win or one Sacramento loss to earn a spot in the postseason.
Though ESPN didn't get the superstar they wanted, they got the superstars Utah fans deserved in this late-night game.
Joe Ingles flirted with a triple-double, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors had huge nights in the post (and beyond), and Donovan Mitchell yet again hammered down a massive dunk over Laker big JaVale McGee.
As a bonus for University of Utah-leaning Jazz fans, former Ute Kyle Kuzma had another nice outing for the Lakers with a team-high 21 points.
It was a fitting night for Ingles to have a huge game as the Jazz hosted Autism Awareness Night. The Aussie forward and his wife, Renae, recently announced that their 2-year-old son Jacob was diagnosed with autism.
Ingles scored 11 points, dished out a career-high 14 assists and came oh-so-close to that elusive triple-double — something the Jazz rarely see — with nine rebounds. Guard Ricky Rubio had a triple-double in the playoffs last spring, but the team hasn't had one in the regular season since Carlos Boozer notched one in 2008.
"I’m glad we got the win," Ingles said, "and glad of the awareness and the arena was filled out, that was more important."
The crowd got a bit upset — in a playful manner — when Jazz coach Quin Snyder took Ingles out of the game one rebound shy of the statistical feat with 2:27 remaining in the game. But Snyder grabbed Ingles as he walked to the bench with a smile on his face and gave him a quick hug.
"I think our guys are more about what the team is doing," Snyder said. "Obviously Joe played great. It was a big night in a lot of ways."
For the record, Ingles wasn't bothered by coming out of the game before getting that last board.
"It’s not me, it’s not our team," he said. "You guys know, I’ve never played for that reason, and I never will. If it happened during the game, great. We can all cheer and and I don’t even know what I’d do. Nothing, probably. Just move on."
Gobert had a dominant night for the national audience, racking up 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting with 11 rebounds and three swats. Like Mitchell, he also seized an opportunity to dunk on the 7-foot McGee.
Favors made 9 of 13 shots for 20 points and grabbed six boards. Even Jae Crowder (16 points) and Thabo Sefolosha (11 points) got in on the fun in this one.8 comments on this story
Mitchell only scored 11 points after a quiet outing against Phoenix two days earlier, but his dunk over the Laker center was spectacular. He spun around the top of the key, drove down the lane and took off for a trademark hammer dunk. What made it especially impressive — and somewhat humorous — was that McGee initially approached him before putting on the brakes and retreating toward the baseline to avoid fouling the airborne Spida man.
The Jazz only led 60-53 at halftime before seizing control of the game with a 27-18 third quarter. Utah led by as many as 22 points.
"They are a great team, a team that has played together for a long time," Kuzma said. "Those guys know how to play with each other and you saw it clicking on the offense, getting stops in transition and we didn't get back."