Utah Jazz beat LA Lakers, lead NBA’s Western Conference

The Utah Jazz are the best team in the NBA’s Western Conference.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Yes, head coach Will Hardy was quick to remind that being atop the standings just 12 games into the season doesn’t matter, but for a team that was widely expected to not be good this season, it’s one more feather in the collective cap that is getting quite full of them already.

On Monday night at Vivint Arena, it was the incredibly shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers’ (including LeBron James) turn to get beaten handily by the 9-3 Jazz, the second time in three games it has occurred.

This time, the Jazz won 139-116, comfortably eclipsing their previous season high of 132 points. The win came after the Jazz won Sunday on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Utah Jazz’s offense is absolutely incredible

The above heading might be a “Duh” after a team just dropped 139 points, but it needs to be noted just how wonderfully the Jazz are playing on the offensive end of the floor so far this season, and Monday certainly continued the trend.

It started early, as the Jazz scored a whopping 42 points in the first quarter, tallying eight assists on 13 made baskets.

Shotmaking variance can definitely play into whether or not a quarter is considered good or bad on the offensive end, and the Jazz were unquestionably hot from behind the 3-point line as they made eight triples in the first 12 minutes (Jordan Clarkson was scorching hot in making four), but their looks were incredibly clean and confidence built from there.

The Jazz cooled off from 3 after the first quarter, going just 8 of 25 the rest of the way, but then they were able to get it done in other ways.

After a scoreless first quarter, Lauri Markkanen finished with a team-high 23 points, with 16 of them coming on field goals inside the 3-point line. In all, an incredible seven players finished in double figures, and Rudy Gay and Walker Kessler almost got there with 8 points apiece.

Just look at this play that resulted in a wide open 3-pointer for Collin Sexton as Exhibit A of the kind of night the Jazz had.

“Tonight on the offensive end is another example of we’re hard to guard when the ball moves because you can’t keep keying on one person, so proud of the guys,” Hardy said.

“Winning on a back-to-back’s not easy, and now we’re ready to go on the road.”

Added Clarkson in the television walk off interview with Holly Rowe: “It’s just fun. We’re moving the ball, playing a fun style of basketball.

“It’s great to come home and get a win after being out on the road, but it’s just always fun when the ball’s poppin’, we’re making shots. It’s just a great vibe, great energy.”

The defense played better in the second half

For as tremendous as the Jazz were in scoring 76 points in the first half, the Lakers were right behind them with 71, as there was very little defense played from either squad in the opening two quarters.

Yes, the Lakers are bad and much worse without James and they wore out as the game went on, but Hardy was pleased with better effort on that end of the floor in the final two frames.

“I thought in the second half, Lauri, who was the primary matchup (on Anthony Davis) did a much better job on the ball not letting Anthony Davis’ first dribble get so deep in the lane,” Hardy said.

“I thought in the first half, his initial move just got too deep, and so it was hard for us to help. I thought Lauri did a great job in the second half of using his physicality and his foot speed to kind of catch that first dribble, and it allowed his teammates to come help him.”

The Good Vibe Tribe is back

A few years ago, the Jazz were an incredibly fun team, and players dubbed themselves the “Good Vibe Tribe.”

There’s no question that was absent last season most of the time, but there’s also no question that it has returned, with Clarkson as the leader.

Just watch Clarkson turn toward the Vivint Arena crowd after beating the buzzer on a 3-pointer to end the first quarter and players both on the floor and the bench after a thunderous Talen Horton-Tucker dunk.

“Everybody just has a great vibe,” Clarkson told Rowe. “I think it’s just all flowing really well and we’re just going to continue playing this fun style of basketball and keep this same vibe going.”

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