It goes by quickly, those five minutes of overtime. After 48 minutes of back and forth, the Jazz and the Lakers needed just a few more minutes to award a victor. It opened with Pau Gasol getting stripped on two possessions in a row and the Utah Jazz taking a four-point lead. The Laker big men were having a tough shooting night, and the fatigue of playing the second night of a back-to-back was obvious in the lack of speed and energy with which they played in regulation. In overtime, however, they made up for it with some key plays.
Kobe Bryant hit a three after giving up two baskets to Pau Millsap. That was answered on the other end by Josh Howard, giving the Jazz a four-point lead, with almost half of overtime gone. And then Andrew Bynum and Gasol finally came to. With the shot clock running and Bryant surrounded, he passed to Gasol waiting in the corner.
“Give it to me, please. One time, just hit me,” is what Gasol said he was thinking. Upon receiving the opportunity, he scored a corner three, the ball hitting nothing but net. Following that was Bynum tipping in Bryant’s missed jumper. And then everything seemed to happen in fast-forward.
With just seconds left in overtime and the Lakers leading by a single point, Gordon Hayward drove into the lane, the eyes of Bynum following the ball into the hands of Al Jefferson. Jefferson rose up with a chance to hit the game winning shot and who should he run into but the long arm of Bynum blocking his chance to be the game’s hero. The blocked ball landed into the hands of Kobe Bryant, and Bynum landed into the congratulatory arms of Pau Gasol and Matt Barnes. With 0.7 seconds left in overtime, Paul Millsap inbounded to Devin Harris, who turned around to shoot a long three when he was blocked by Bryant’s good hand, giving the Lakers their first road win.
Kobe Bryant – We’ll run out of superlatives…eventually, but tonight was just another huge game for Bryant. Following his 48-point game against the Suns in yesterday’s win, Kobe finished the first half with 21 points and finished the game with 40 on 14-31, a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line, adding eight rebounds, four assists, a steal and the one final block that sealed the win. A lot has been made of Bryant’s performance; that his shooting efforts of late are hindering the offensive opportunities for options 2 and 3, namely Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. With each having a bad-shooting night, however (Gasol was 5-14 and Bynum was 5-13), and the Lakers getting little to no production from anyone else, Bryant stepped up as only he knows how.
Defense – 87 points on 39% shooting, that is what the Jazz were held to on their own home court, a place they had gone undefeated until tonight. Aside from Paul Millsap who had 29 points on 14-24 and Josh Howard who came off the bench and contributed 18 points on 6-14, everyone else was contained. Al Jefferson was held to just 11 points on 5-17; Devin Harris just 1-7 for three points. The Lakers threw different defenses out there tonight, keeping Utah on their heels with some isolations as well as some zone. It wasn’t exactly lockdown defense, but they still managed to interrupt the Jazz effectively. Bynum may not have had a huge offensive game, but he still managed nine rebounds and five blocks, including the last block that kept Jefferson from scoring the winning shot.
Small Big Things – Pau Gasol really fought for those 14 points (5-14), but he also grabbed 11 rebounds and gained a vote of confidence from Bryant to make a huge play in the end, that three pointer in overtime.
Derek Fisher only had two points on 1-5 but he handed out seven assists and had zero turnovers. He had the highest +/- tonight with +14.
Matt Barnes continued his excellent play of late with 11 points on 5-6 and seven rebounds. He even played with five fouls from the second half of the fourth quarter through overtime. In constant motion – that is how Barnes has been this season. He not only keeps tabs on the player he’s defending, but he’s consistently ready to intercept passes, grab rebounds, etc.
Bench contribution – 35-11, that was the disparity in bench contribution between the Jazz and the Lakers. Still shorthanded tonight with Troy Murphy, Josh McRoberts and Jason Kapono all out, Mike Brown played practically every Laker in uniform, from Metta World Peace to rookie Darius Morris, leaving only Andrew Goudelock on the pine for the duration of the contest. It’s been more than a tough beginning to the season for the Lakers, without a complete, healthy roster on hand. Gasol played over 46 minutes tonight without a legitimate power forward to back him up. Metta World Peace, despite staying active on the defensive end, is still suffering offensively. He had one exciting dunk tonight, but that’s about it. His threeball (and his offense in general) has been off the mark, and there’s no telling when or how he’ll get his groove back. On a night like tonight, when Gasol and Bynum were a tough time scoring, did Bryant have a choice but to pull out another 40-point game, with the rest of the team unable to chip in SOMETHING on a more consistent basis? And this was made more difficult with a freak injury to…
Steve Blake – a rib contusion. Blake passed the ball to Luke Walton in the third quarter and quickly grabbed his side. He sat on the bench speaking to trainer Gary Vitti as he was keeled over in obvious pain. He went to the locker room to be examined and never returned to the floor. Hopefully it’s not too serious of an injury because the Lakers can’t afford to be another man down, especially Blake, who has re-emerged so efficiently this season.
Turnovers – it’s not 27 turnovers but 17 isn’t a great number either. The Lakers are quickly becoming the team averaging the most turnovers per game. They’re in fourth place in the league as of today, averaging 16.5 turnovers. That is the wrong side of that stat to be on.
With their first road win of the season, the Lakers have shoved another monkey off their backs. There is still room (a lot of it) for some improvement and the team has little time to figure their way through it. Much of the experimenting that’s usually done in practice is taking place during gametime, and though the Lakers and their coaching staff have been patient in the process, there isn’t a large margin of error with the season cut 16 games short. For a team learning as they go, however, they haven’t been all bad. Still, some fine-tuning could do them some good.