They’re almost there – rock bottom. The Utah Jazz have only the second to the last worst record in the league. To really hit rock bottom, the Milwaukee Bucks will have to beat the Lakers, which they will get a chance to do on New Year’s Eve. Let’s not jump ahead, however.
After falling three games under .500, the Lakers had last three games left into 2013 to try to win so they could go into the New Year with an even record. All three games were against losing teams too – Utah Jazz, Philadelphia Sixers and Milwaukee Bucks. Unfortunately, no game this season has been easy for the Lakers to win (except maybe the first game against the Clippers, which seems so out of character at this point in time that it’s become a novelty victory).
The game was close from beginning to end, and in such games, every little stat counts. Every. Little. Stat. No quarter was won by more than two points and no lead was greater than eight. After 14 lead changes, however, Utah managed to win 105-103.
Bench – Led by Nick Young, naturally, the Laker bench showed their value again, outscoring the Jazz reserves 51-26. Three bench players scored in double figures, led by Young’s 21 points on 10-17 from the field, highlighted by his 13 points in the third quarter alone. Unfortunately, he fouled out of the game midway through the fourth quarter. It might be the first time we’ve ever seen him so upset on the bench. After helping the team shoot almost 60% in that 13-point third quarter, Young had to watch from the sidelines while the Lakers shot 42% in the deciding final minutes.
Jordan Hill – Without Young to finish out the game, Hill stepped in and scored 13 of his 16 points in that final quarter. Until then, Hill had done very little. He’d only had four rebounds until that quarter too; and he finished with nine. He even went 6-8 from the three throw line.
Chris Kaman – With Pau Gasol out with an upper respiratory infection again, Kaman was an easy pick to move up to the starting line-up, and he made use of his time on the floor. Kaman finished with 19 points on 7-11 from the field, 5-6 from the free throw line and 10 rebounds. He also had three blocks. Whether Gasol is back in the next game, there is no comprehensible reason why Kaman should be left out of the rotation. He’s a solid scorer and defender.
Jordan Farmar – Boy is he a sight for sore eyes! Farmar’s debut against Miami didn’t yield the results we’d hoped for, but his play tonight was signature. 16 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals. Farmar is moving like he’s pain-free, which is a great sign. Unfortunately, when he leaves the floor, so does the Lakers’ offensive capabilities.
Little Things Mean A Lot – …especially when they amount to one big thing, like a victory.
Free Throws – The Lakers attempted three more free throws than the Jazz, but missed seven of them. Xavier Henry and Young were a combined 0-3. This isn’t the first time that the Lakers have lost a close game and simple things like free throws matter in the end because of it.
Three-pointer – The Lakers are 10th in the league in 3PT% and Utah is 22nd. The two teams attempted the same number of threes (23) but the Jazz converted on two more threes than the Lakers. That’s a six-point advantage. Jodie Meeks was just 3-9 from downtown tonight, but in his last five games (one win and four losses), he is a combined 11-32 from behind the arc. That’s 34%; with most attempts wide open. Wesley Johnson and Shawne Williams were no better, combining for 0-6 from three.
Fast Break Points – The Lakers had just 14 turnovers and the Jazz had 15, yet Utah scored 19 points off of those 14 giveaways compared to the Lakers’ 15. In their last few games, the Lakers have not taken advantage of their opponents’ mistakes and it’s costing them games. Moreover, the Jazz scored 25 fast break points compared to the Lakers’ 12.
Defense – The Lakers had less than 20 seconds to play defense in one of the final plays, but after Gordon Hayward missed a layup, no one was on Derrick Favors and he scored on a putback. No communication, no cover.
It was one of those games (again) where one glance at the stat sheet has you thinking, “If only they’d made three more free throws…if only they hit just one more three…if only they grabbed a few more offensive rebounds and scored.” There are a lot of those types of games for the Lakers this season, but hopefully the next two games will tell a different tale, and hopefully, there’s a win in the end.