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Los Angeles • Quin Snyder has found ways to adapt this season while his players have missed a combined 60 games due to various injuries and ailments, but on Monday night the Utah Jazz coach found himself on the disabled list.
Battling illness, Snyder stayed off the sideline at Staples Center, handing over coaching duties to assistant Igor Kokoskov. What he saw from afar should have him feeling a little bit better.
The Jazz held off Lou Williams and the Los Angeles Lakers, 107-101, to claim their sixth victory in their last seven games.
Snyder coached his team during their morning shootaround in Santa Monica, but he looked under the weather as he arrived at the arena Monday evening. By tipoff, the coach was deemed too ill to patrol the sideline, forcing an unexpected game-time adjustment.
"I know my place. I'm not a head coach," Kokoskov said after helping lead the Jazz to victory. "There's no replicating Coach Snyder. This is his team."
Kokoskov did his best to fill in.
Dressed in a gray suit, the 44-year-old Serbian paced the sideline. In the first quarter, the coach took exception with power forward Trey Lyles' failure to box out on a rebound, as the Jazz let an early 9-point lead evaporate. Then, Kokoskov looked on happily as the Jazz held the Lakers scoreless for the first five minutes of the third quarter while building up a 18-point advantage. Later, Kokoskov had to sweat it out as the Lakers mounted a comeback effort behind Williams' 38-point night.
"It was a little different," said Jazz point guard Shelvin Mack said. "He isn't making the faces Coach Q makes when somebody messes up."
The Jazz have dealt with plenty of injuries this season. On Monday, they were without starting point guard and starting power forward Derrick Favors for the 11th time in 22 games. The absence of their coach, players said, would have to be treated similarly.
"It's just like a player being out," shooting guard Rodney Hood said of Snyder's absence. "It's the same thing. We just have to do our habits."
Kokoskov, who was promoted to the Jazz's lead assistant earlier this year, is no stranger to the head coach's chair. He had coached the Georgian national team for nearly a decade before being named Slovenia's head coach earlier this year. But he acknowledged his first stint as an NBA head coach would be a different beast.
"This is definitely a different experience," he said. "I didn't have much time to be ready to prepare for this. But, again, this game is about our team and about our players."
On Monday, the best of those players took over when it mattered most. Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert dominated the third quarter. The forward scored 14 points in the period, notching his eighth straight game with 20 points or more. Gobert, meanwhile, finished the game with 14 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks.
"I think he was a little nervous," Gobert said of Kokoskov. "But he was great. Igor is a smart guy and, at the end of the day, the players have to go do what we have to do on the court."
Led by Luke Walton, a man who turned an extended stint as a fill-in head coach into a full-time job, the Lakers have been surprisingly successful through the first quarter of the season, winning 10 of their first 22 games. A season ago, they won just 17 in all.
Against the Jazz, however, the Lakers were without one of their brightest young stars, point guard D'Angelo Russell, who has missed the past two weeks with a knee injury, along with guards Jose Calderon and Nick Young.
But Williams' 38-points on 13-of-27 shooting kept the Lakers hanging around.
"We knew it was coming but we didn't find a quickness," Kokoskov said. "We didn't contain the ball well. That's not something that's just a concern for this game but for the games that are coming. The same thing happened against Miami and tonight. We have to find a way to contain the ball better and to match the quickness."
The Jazz, meanwhile, got solid contributions from Boris Diaw, who had scored a season-high 12 points by halftime and point guard Dante Exum, who hit the 10-point mark for the ninth time this season.
Snyder wasn't in the locker room to help Kokoskov and his staff make halftime adjustments, but the fill-in believed his boss would be back in action soon.
"I think he's going to be with us tomorrow," Kokoskov said. "He's going to coach the game."
Snyder and his team won't have much time to mend before their next game. The Jazz turn back around and take on the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night in Salt Lake.
R The Jazz defense held the Lakers scoreless for nearly five straight minutes to start the third quarter, building up an 18-point lead in the process.
• Forward Boris Diaw had set a new season-high by half-time, scoring 12 points in the opening two periods. Diaw had only scored in double-digits (11 points) one other time this season.