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Jazz rally past LeBron-less Lakers to win fifth straight game

Los Angeles Lakers v Utah Jazz
Los Angeles Lakers v Utah Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Lauri Markkanen had 29 points, nine rebounds and five assists to lead the Utah Jazz to a 132-123 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night.

Collin Sexton scored 27 points and Jordan Clarkson added 21 to help the Jazz win their eighth straight game at home and fifth straight overall. John Collins and Keyonte George chipped in 19 points apiece. Collins also grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds.

Utah moved a game over .500 for the first time this season after winning only seven of its first 23 games. The Jazz have their first five-game winning streak under coach Will Hardy.

“It’s taken a while, but I think we’re finding an identity on both ends of the floor and we’re able to execute night in and night out,” Markkanen said.

With LeBron James out with a left ankle injury, Anthony Davis had a triple-double, but the Jazz turned around the game after the first quarter.

Utah dominated in transition, scoring 27 fast-break points and 23 points off turnovers.

“We didn’t want this game to be played all in the halfcourt,” Hardy said. “We felt like our speed in transition was an advantage. The team did a really good job of recognizing that and getting out and running.”

D’Angelo Russell led the Lakers with a season-high 39 points and eight assists. Austin Reaves chipped in 19 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter and Rui Hachimura added 17.

Davis had 15 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists, but shot just 5 of 21 from the field and committed six turnovers.

“When our offense is going, it’s our defense that’s not. When our defense is going, it’s our offense that’s not,” Russell said. “I really don’t know what’s going on.”

Utah used a 15-3 run to surge ahead midway through the third quarter. Markkanen and Kris Dunn bookended the run with 3-pointers as Utah went up 85-79.

The Lakers cut the deficit to three on Hachimura’s jumper with 8:59 left but drew no closer. Utah pulled away and gained its first double digit lead at 120-109 on Sexton’s alley-oop dunk off a steal with 4:19 remaining.

“I think our defense picked up after the first quarter and we were able to keep it up and that won us the game,” Markkanen said.

Utah went 17 of 19 from the free throw line during the fourth quarter and was 36 of 39 overall. Markkanen and Sexton made 10 free throws apiece on 21 combined attempts.

The Jazz and the Lakers combined for 63 free throw attempts over four quarters.

“That’s a lot of free throws between both teams combined,” Los Angeles coach Darvin Ham said. “It totally disrupts the flow of the game.”

Even without James, Los Angeles got off to a strong start. Reaves and Russell attacked relentlessly and combined to score the Lakers’ first 19 points. They each had 12 points in the first quarter, which ended with Russell's buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave the Lakers a 39-31 lead.

After trailing by 12 points midway through the second quarter, Utah cut the deficit to 65-64 on a three-point play from Clarkson with 52 seconds left before halftime.

“The first quarter we were really a step behind on the defensive end of the floor,” Hardy said. “Then the team settled in.”