LOS ANGELES (ABC4 Sports) – In the span of 2 1/2 months, the Utah Jazz went from team 9 games under .500 to the playoffs.
Donovan Mitchell scored 28 points to help the Utah Jazz clinch a playoff berth with a 112-97 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
Utah is the fourth team in the crowded Western Conference to lock up a postseason spot, with five teams still in the running for the other four positions before the regular season ends Wednesday.
“I’m really proud of not just their effort tonight, because tonight was not an easy game, but over the course of the season,” said head coach Quin Snyder.
Mitchell also had nine rebounds and eight assists, and Joe Ingles had 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting along with 10 assists. Jae Crowder added 18 points off the bench.
“We just wanted to prove everybody wrong, that we’re a good team with the players that we have,” said Derrick Favors. “We’re just excited to go back to the playoffs.”
Josh Hart had 25 points for Los Angeles, which has lost six of eight. Julius Randle had 17 points and seven rebounds.
A basket by Royce O’Neale put Utah up 98-76 in the opening four minutes of the fourth quarter. The shot marked Utah’s largest lead of the game.
Mitchell threw a full-court pass to a streaking Ingles for a layup and a 66-56 lead with 5:44 remaining in the third. Utah led 82-67 when O’Neale made a 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds to go in the quarter.
Tyler Ennis made a scoop shot that pulled Los Angeles within 32-30 during the second quarter, but Utah regained a 12-point lead with help from two 3-pointers by Crowder. The Lakers closed the half on 6-2 run and trailed by only six.
The Jazz started the game on a 7-0 run and extended the lead to 19-4 with Mitchell’s 3-pointer in transition. Los Angeles answered with a 10-0 spurt and closed within four with less than two minutes left in the first quarter.
The Jazz (47-33) are currently the 4th seed in the West, but can move up to the 3rd seed with victories over Golden State and Portland in their final two regular season games.
“I’m excited,”Mitchell said. “I’m happy but we’ve got two more game left. We can’t really celebrate right now, we’ve got two more game to finish this off.”
The Jazz host the Warriors Tuesday night.