NBA: Utah Jazz top Lakers 117-110
Los Angeles • The stars were out at Staples Center.
And maybe that explains much of Utah's 117-110 win Sunday over the Lakers. But the Jazz weren't about to let the absences of Pau Gasol and Steve Nash be the prevailing storyline Sunday night at Staples Center.
"No matter what's going on with the Lakers," Al Jefferson said, "it's a win for us."
Behind 24 points from Paul Millsap and an inspired effort from the bench, the Jazz withstood several runs to escape with their most cohesive performance of the season.
Tabbed a preseason favorite for the NBA title, these Lakers (9-12) have been a mess from Day 1 and are hobbling through December without Gasol and point guard Nash, both sidelined with injuries.
However, Sunday night was about the Jazz (12-10), who won their third consecutive game and just their fourth on the road.
"We've been struggling on the road," point guard Jamaal Tinsley said, "so it's just fun to win on the road and the way we did it was very impressive."
The Jazz had won on the road this season snapping their road bugaboo with victories in Toronto, New Orleans and Washington. But those are where visiting NBA teams go to thrive.
Beating the Lakers in Los Angeles marked the Jazz's first road victory over a bona fide opponent, although the Lakers are quickly fading from that category.
An 11-0 run gave the Jazz a 52-40 lead in the second quarter and the Jazz led 60-51 at halftime. The Lakers made several runs at the Jazz in the third, cutting the lead to two on five occasions, and got as close as 79-78.
However, the Jazz exploded at the start of the fourth behind their second unit, including six quick points from Enes Kanter, and led 108-93 after Millsap's jump shot.
Four nights after hitting the 30,000-point benchmark, Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 34 points. However, his biggest shot was a 3-pointer that rattled out with 35 seconds remaining and the Jazz leading 115-110.
"Glad he missed," Jefferson said. "That would have hurt. That would have hurt bad."
After sitting out Friday's 131-99 win over Toronto with back spasms, Jefferson tallied 14 points and 11 rebounds, tying him for second in the NBA with 12 double-doubles.
Kanter spelled Jefferson and was again vital, scoring 14 points and grabbing four offensive rebounds.
With Derrick Favors pulled from the lineup minutes before game time, Kanter became that much more critical. At one point in the second quarter, Kanter scored on four consecutive possessions.
"He's a beast inside," coach Tyrone Corbin said, "and he's learning how to score on big guys and small guys."
Even without Favors, who missed his fifth straight game with plantar fasciitis, the Jazz dominated inside. They outscored the Lakers 54-34 in the paint, and Dwight Howard was limited to just 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
Favors was expected to play against the Lakers, with the Jazz saying an hour before the game that he was cleared. After getting through Saturday's practice pain-free, Favors said the plantar fasciitis "flared up" during pregame warm-ups and he made the call to sit out.
"This group of guys don't complain about their minutes," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "They do a good job and they want to show they deserve more minutes by their play on the floor."
The Jazz bench outscored the Lakers' 43-38.
Storylines Overcoming Kobe
R Paul Millsap leads the Jazz with 24 points and 9 rebounds while Al Jefferson turns in another double, finishing with 14 and 10.
• Kobe Bryant leads all scorers with 34 points.
• The Jazz next play San Antonio on Wednesday in a nationally-televised game.