With the team’s injury bug hitting the coaching staff, Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov directed the team to a win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Like many teams across the sporting spectrum, the Utah Jazz have a “next man up” mentality. With players going down on what seems like a daily basis, it’s a mindset that’s become second nature for the team in recent years. However, the injury/illness bug broke new ground before Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
If missing George Hill, Derrick Favors and Alec Burks weren’t enough, Jazz coach Quin Snyder was forced to sit from the game in La La Land. The Jazzman-in-chief fell ill on the bus ride over to Staples Center for the game, leaving assistant coach Igor Kokoskov to direct the team’s attack.
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While the Jazz band didn’t always play its sweetest music, the team ultimately didn’t miss a beat under Coach Igor, beating the Lakers 107-101. It was the sixth win in seven games for Utah, who improved to 13-9 on the year.
Kokoskov is no stranger to being the top man on the bench. Just this summer, he directed the Slovenian national team to a 6-0 record and a first-place finish at EuroBasket qualification. Still, after the win, Snyder’s assistant reiterated to the media whose team it was that he had just coached —
“I know my place. I’m not a head coach and I was trying, but there is no replica to Coach Snyder. This is his team. He is such a great teacher and leader, so I was just happy that I was part of this group. I’m happy that we won this game.”
Kokoskov wasn’t the only person top step up in the game. Boris Diaw gave his best performance as a Jazzman in relief of Favors, hitting a perfect 5-for-5 from the field to score 12 points. He also dished out four assists. The Jazz outscored the Lakers by 19 points when he was on the floor.
Meanwhile, Dante Exum and Shelvin Mack combined for 20 points and eight assists while filling in for Hill.
Nevertheless, it was Gordon Hayward who carried the big load for the Jazz. After scoring 30 points in three consecutive games entering the game, the Jazz star put up 23 against the Lakers, hitting three three-pointers. He also added six rebounds, five assists and two steals.
It was the kind of effort the Jazz needed desperately with Lou Williams going crazy for the Lake Show. The sixth-man extraordinaire dropped 38 points in 34 minutes off the bench for Luke Walton’s team and helped make the game interesting in the fourth quarter after the Jazz had built 19-point advantage in the third.
In the end, though, Kokoskov and his crew hung on for the win.