"We Made The Game A Lot Tougher Than It Needed To Be" | Conley Shines Despite Loss

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

It's already a well-known fact that playing back-to-back games in the NBA is very difficult. 

But playing a back-to-back where you face the reigning MVP at the league's highest elevation one night before traveling to meet a well-rested LeBron James the next night — that's about as brutal of a back-to-back you can find from anywhere in the league. 

Unfortunately, that's the situation Utah found itself in on Monday night in Los Angeles. 

Despite leading by as many as nine in the fourth quarter, the Jazz ran out of steam late and fell 101-95 to the Lakers on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

"We had a stretch there where we made the game a lot tougher than it needed to be,” Mike Conley said postgame.

Despite a rough night shooting the ball as a team, Rudy Gobert continued to perform at an all-NBA level.

In just his second game back since a two-week absence due to health and safety protocols, Gobert finished with his 33rd double-double of the season with 19 points and 16 rebounds. He shot 6-of-8 from the field, 7-for-8 from the free throw line, and added three blocks for good measure. 

With Gobert more than handling business in the paint, Utah needed a scorer out on the perimeter to help set the balance of the offense. Conley answered the call for the Jazz, scoring 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the floor and 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. 

Conley's performance has to be a bright spot for Utah tonight, especially considering it came on the backend of a back-to-back. After dealing with a myriad of injuries the past few seasons, the Jazz have tried to limit Conley's time on the court this season when it comes to playing both nights of a back-to-back.

"We've been conscious of his minutes in those types of situations," head coach Quin Snyder said of Conley.

Despite the difficulty over the final 12 minutes, the game was a back-and-forth battle as both teams entered knowing they needed the victory badly. 

Utah used an 8-0 run in the middle of the first quarter to take a one-point lead heading into the second. Not to be outdone, the Lakers responded in a big way to take an 11-point lead late before the half.

The Jazz got some much-needed momentum with a quick 5-0 run to the end the second quarter, trailing 52-46 at the break.

Utah found its legs and rhythm on offense in the third quarter, scoring 32 points to retake the lead heading into the fourth. The Jazz went on a 12-2 run late in the quarter to lead by six entering the fourth. 

"The defense has been something we've really focused and worked on," Snyder said. "I thought we really defended, particularly in the first half, where it kept us right there in the game. The third quarter is where we had some good possessions and made a run."

Utah extended its lead to nine early in the fourth quarter, but that's where the more-rested Lakers began to seize control the rest of the way. 

Donovan Mitchell finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, while Royce O'Neale added 13 points, five rebounds, and a team-high +13 rating. Rudy Gay led the effort off the bench with nine points, eight rebounds, and two steals in 18 minutes. 

"I thought we took too many really tough shots. … We made it harder on ourselves than it needed to be," Snyder said postgame. "We've been good offensively, and there's a reason we've been good. … This is one where we'll see the film and see where we can be better."

James led the Lakers with a game-high 25 points, adding seven rebounds and seven assists. Russell Westbrook added 15 points and eight assists, while Stanley Johnson scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. 

On Wednesday, the Jazz return home to face the Houston Rockets for Filipino Heritage Night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MST, and tickets can be purchased HERE.