Following a rocky start to their season, the upstart Utah Jazz became the fourth Western Conference team to punch their ticket to the playoffs, holding off the young Los Angeles Lakers 112 to 97 Sunday afternoon, ESPN reported.

Rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell had a game-high 28 points, with fellow rookie Josh Hart of the Lakers leading his squad with 25.

A surefire win

During the Sunday contest, the Jazz jumped out to a 19-4 lead in the opening minutes and never looked back.

While the Lakers, led by Hart and backup point guard Tyler Ennis (who had 22), narrowed the lead down to three points early in the third, the Jazz quickly rallied (possibly motivated by a rare Joe Ingles dunk) and had a double-digit lead for the entirety of the fourth quarter.

In addition to the above posterization, Ingles had 22 points and a game-high ten assists from the small forward position. The Jazz had significant bench contributions by Royce O'Neal (15 points on 5 of 7 shooting) and mid-season acquisition Jae Crowder, who sank four three pointers and 18 points.

An Unlikely Contender

On January 22nd, the Utah Jazz sank to nine games under .500 (19-28) following a loss to the floundering Hawks.

The team started slowly following their offseason loss of All-Star small forward Gordon Hayward in free agency, and the multiple injuries to vitally important center Rudy Gobert, who missed 26 games up to that point.

Since then, the Jazz have gone on a 27-5 run, pushing themselves into the top half of the Western Conference playoffs.

Coach Quin Snyder has turned a team projected into the lottery, consisting mostly of no-name players into a feared group. Perhaps most impressive has been the emergence of Donovan Mitchell, the 13th pick in last year's draft, who is the team's leading scorer and would be the surefire Rookie-of-the-Year if not for the unprecedented campaign of Philadelphia's Ben Simmons.

Breakout Performers

While rookie Donovan Mitchell was projected to be an adequate scorer in the NBA, it was foreseen for few that he would lead his team in scoring with 20.4 points per game. The only other rookies to lead a 45+ win-team in scoring were Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, and David Robinson. With a slew of 40-point performances and clutch shots, Mitchell has certainly made a compelling case for Rookie of the Year.

Also making a compelling case for an award is Rudy Gobert, their stalwart center, who is vying for his first career Defensive Player of the Year Award. A top-three vote-getter the past two years, Gobert's presence has allowed the young Jazz to be a top-five defensive team in the whole league. While he will play only 56 games at most, an injury to Kawhi Leonard and a backslide from Draymond Green (the previous two winners), have cleared the path for Gobert to get his first award.