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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz head coach Will Hardy was blunt: Games like Monday's, to use his words, "scare the crap out of you, for sure."
So what made a Los Angeles Lakers team playing without LeBron James, along with two other starters (Patrick Beverley and Lonnie Walker IV), so frightening?
It was actually the fact that they were sitting out.
"It's human nature when you see a player like LeBron not playing, maybe we'll think that the game, 'Oh, it'll be a little bit easier because you're not going to play against LeBron,' but it frees up all those other guys," Hardy said. "... When starters are out and they're gonna get a crack to play 25 to 30 minutes, they really want to try to seize those opportunities."
Turns out, Hardy didn't have much to worry about. Instead of the Lakers bench capitalizing on their chances, it was the Jazz who seized a chance to move up to the top of the standings in the Western Conference.
Utah clobbered the Lakers without James 139-116 on Monday at Vivint Arena to improve to 9-3 on the season.
Lauri Markkanen had 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting, and Jordan Clarkson added 22 points to lead an offensive explosion by the Jazz.
Utah had 115 points at the end of the third quarter as the Lakers showed a complete inability to stop Utah. The Jazz shot 56% from the field and 42% from 3-point range in the game.
Anthony Davis had 29 points for the Lakers, while Russell Westbrook continued his strong off-the-bench performances with 22 points as Los Angeles's Sixth Man. Los Angeles shot 63% from the field and 58% from the 3-point line in the first half. Fortunately for Utah, it matched the Lakers shot for shot.
"There was no way we were going to win the game if we continued trading and allowing (Davis) to dominate the game," said Mike Conley, who had 14 points and 12 assists.
Davis had 19 points at halftime and took advantage of Utah's lack of true shot blocker for much of the game.
But in a similar move that turned around Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Jazz trusted Markkanen to stop the opposing team's best player. On Sunday, it was Markkanen shutting down Paul George on the perimeter; on Monday, he battled Davis in the post.
"He did a much better job on the ball of not letting Anthony Davis' first dribble gets so deep in the lane," Hardy said. "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 move that allowed his teammates to come help."
Davis made just two shots after halftime, and the Lakers followed suit. Los Angeles shot 36% from the field and went 2-of-12 from deep in the second half.
The Lakers cooled off; the Jazz didn't.
Utah wasted little time taking over the game in the second half and opened the third quarter on a 10-2 run. From there, the rout was on.
"I thought in the first half our defense was lacking," Hardy said. "Our physicality was not very good. Our communication and execution of the scheme was not very good, but credit to our guys; they dug in at halftime, upped the physicality and the energy aggressiveness on the defensive end, and continued to move the ball on the offensive.
"I think tonight on the offensive end was another example of we're hard to guard when the ball moves."
Utah finished with 30 assists and had seven players reach double figures.
Collin Sexton had 17 points, Talen Horton-Tucker finished with 15 points against his former club, and Malik Beasley added 14 points.
So how did Hardy keep the Jazz ready to go against the Lakers?
"A lot of yelling," Hardy said before laughing. "No, we just try to be honest with the guys. We trust that they're professional and they want to win the game, too. We don't make any excuses — who's playing, who's not playing. If we're banged up or the other teams banged up, it doesn't matter. You still have to go out there and put together a good game for 48 minutes if you want to win this league."
And that's just what the Jazz did on Monday.