With two games left in the season, what were the Lakers to do? One was against one of the worst teams in the league, the last against the best. In simplest terms, the only thing they can do is what they’ve been doing all season no matter the circumstances – they play.
The last time the Lakers played against the Jazz, Utah kept them under 80 points in a victory at Staples Center. The way today’s game started, it wouldn’t have been a complete surprise if the outcome was the same. Utah led by as much as 13 points in the first half, with the Lakers unable to score for the first four minutes of the second quarter. But a 19-2 run before halftime put the Lakers up by seven points and, despite losing that advantage when the score was tied at the end of three, an efficiently-played fourth quarter gave them the lead for good and they beat the Jazz, 119-104.
Nick Young – SwaggyP has led the Lakers in scoring in 43 games, including today. Before going into halftime, he’d scored 17 points on 7-10 from the field, and finished with 41 points (two points shy of his career-high) on 14-23 shooting, including 6-11 from behind the arc. He even had three rebounds and three assists. No matter the state of his team’s season, Young’s love for the game is undeniable. No one celebrates more joyfully after he scores…or after his teammates score.
Bench – On Young’s performance alone, the Laker reserves obliterated Utah’s. As a whole, the Jazz’s bench was outscored 57-13. Robert Sacre helped with his 12 points on 6-8, adding in his nine rebounds and one block.
Support Staff – Five Lakers scored in double figures. Behind Young’s 41 points was Jodie Meeks with 23 on a good 8-13 clip, 2-3 from three. Jordan Hill, capitalizing on a sweet spot he found on the left elbow, put in 21 points of his own, also grabbed six boards and one block. Wesley Johnson, like Sacre, scored 12 points, but it was his defense that’s worth mentioning. He had six rebounds, five steals, three blocks and, to get into the passing party, handed out four assists.
Ball Movement – It can’t be said enough, that when the ball moves, so to the likelihood of a good shot. Kendall Marshall led the game tonight, handing out 15 of the Lakers’ 31 assists. He was only 1-4 from the field and he never made it to the free throw line, but his court vision to get the ball to the open, available, running (etc) teammate more than made up for it.
Defense – Utah committed 18 turnovers and it turned into 29 Laker points. Add to that, 11 Laker steals and six blocks. Their fourth quarter was their best defensively, keeping the Jazz to just 18 points on 7-18 shooting, and they led by as much as 20 points.
Third Quarter – Their worst quarter in seemingly every game, the Lakers lost their seven-point halftime lead when they allowed Utah to shoot 70% from the field to outscore them 35-29.
Jordan Farmar – Farmar played 22 minutes but was just 1-6 from the field. He did hand out six assists, but the bulk of the point guard production came from Marshall.
Tanking – some teams have resorted to it; their end of season hopes resting on how bad their record can get to garner an advantage in that lottery. For the Lakers and Jazz, losing tonight’s game would’ve put them in a more favorable position come draft night. Many fans were hoping for their own team’s demise, but Laker Nick Young had this to say to Mike Trudell after the game, “We didn’t get the worst record in the league.”
These Lakers, I tell you. Despite a completely dismal season, wrought with injury, uncertainty and disappointment, they still manage to find a silver lining.
Next up – probably a Duncan-less, Parker-less, Ginobli-less San Antonio team.