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LOS ANGELES — Three thoughts on the Jazz's 107-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers from KSL.com's Utah Jazz beat writer, Andy Larsen.
1. Jazz can't guard quick guards
Yes, we're starting tonight's Triple Team with a negative, even after a win. But man, the Jazz can't guard small, quick guards right now, with George Hill out due to injury. Lou Williams scored 38 points and finished as a +20 in the game that the Lakers lost by five.
Acting head coach Igor Kokoskov wasn't especially happy with the defensive performance on Williams.
After Lou Williams' 38-point night, Igor Kokoskov says the Jazz guards "have to take some pride & accept a personal challenge" defensively. pic.twitter.com/1612QXBHiZ — Aaron Falk (@aaronfalk) December 6, 2016
Meanwhile, when Shelvin Mack was asked about the Jazz's defense on Williams, Mack said, "I think we did that: there weren't too many easy baskets."
I'm on Kokoskov's side here: the Jazz allowed penetration far too easily. I thought Dante Exum generally did a better job than Mack at this, but Exum picked up five fouls and sent the Lakers to the free throw line for eight free throw attempts, so that's not very effective defense either. Watch how frequently either Exum or Mack gives the responsibility to guard Williams to the big man very early, allowing him to wriggle all the way to the basket.
HIGHLIGHTS: Lou Williams filled up the stat sheet again tonight with 38 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds pic.twitter.com/7Uqlm3EiiO — Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 6, 2016
In many ways, the Jazz only won because Luke Walton decided to start neither of the Lakers' good guards, instead starting Brandon Ingram at point guard and Metta World Peace (now 37) at shooting guard. That starting lineup finished as a -26 in 12 minutes. Thanks, Luke.
2. The offense was pretty, at least
What allowed the Jazz to win this game was their production on the offensive end, which was nice to see without Hill in the lineup. When the Jazz are finding open looks for their teammates through ball movement, it's really fun to watch.
Here, it's early in the shot clock, and Mack gets into the paint, kicking it out to Rodney Hood, who drives to the rim. Hood finds a wide open Lyles in the corner, but Joe Ingles is open next to him, so he slides it over for an open three.
Big-time 3 from Joe! #UTAatLALpic.twitter.com/6pX4SbUPJJ — Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 6, 2016
And on probably the most important play of the game, Mack receives the ball late in the shot clock in the corner. He could have taken the shot too, but takes a dribble and passes it to Hood at the top of the arc.
Ice Cold! #UTAatLALpic.twitter.com/8iqopopK0H — Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) December 6, 2016
Here's a stat that shows how frequently the Jazz did that tonight: the NBA now tracks secondary assists, or "hockey" assists, where one player passes to another player who gets an assist. The NBA [average](http://stats.nba.com/teams/passing/#!?sort=SECONDARY_AST&dir=1) number of secondary assists is about 5 and a half per game, the Warriors average 10.3. Tonight, the Jazz picked up 12.
3. State of the team
Despite the worrisome guard defense, the other things are clicking for the Jazz. The team has now won six of their last seven games, and now rank eighth offensive and fifth defensively, good enough for the fourth best net rating in the league. Only the Golden State Warriors, LA Clippers, and Toronto Raptors are better.
That's a pretty awesome result for a team that's missed Gordon Hayward for six games, George Hill for 11 games, Derrick Favors for 11 games, Boris Diaw for 9 games, Alec Burks for 22 games, and various other small absences all season long. That injury list now even includes the team's head coach, after Quin Snyder missed tonight's contest due to illness.
And yet, the Jazz made no movement up the standings tonight, because every other Western Conference playoff team that they're competing with also won. So it goes.
Here's another stat from a fan on Twitter that shows the quality of the Jazz's talent when they've been on the floor:
This is the easy stretch of the Jazz's season, and we've seen that with wins despite less than convincing performances at times. Given all of the injuries the Jazz currently face, and that they're picking up wins anyway, maybe the easy stretch came at the perfect time.
Of course, that's interrupted when the Warriors come to town Thursday. The Jazz have one game between then and now, against a Suns team tomorrow that isn't good, but might be easy to overlook after traveling tonight.