The camera focused in on Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher in the first quarter, side by side on the bench and looking on. Bryant sat stone-faced and Fisher sat…scrunch-faced, both surely bewildered at the team they were watching: fumbled passes, missed lay ups, missed jumpers, missed everything. And that was just the first quarter.
The Lakers were 0-6 from the field until the 9:12 mark of the first quarter. To say the home team was not sharp to begin would be an understatement, but they managed to stay in the game in large part to Ron Artest, who led all scores in the first half with 17 on 6-9 shooting.
Artest has been a different player since the pre-season began. His recognition on the floor is much quicker, allowing him various offensive options, like passing the ball inside to Pau Gasol and then cutting to receive the ball back for an easy lay up; or waiting for an opening to bury a three-pointer which he did today…twice..
The third quarter, or at least the beginning of it, belonged to Kobe Bryant. Having gone 0-4 in the first two quarters, Bryant zoned in and went on a scoring tear – 19 points on 7-8 shooting, two of those were three-pointers. Bryant scored on catch ‘n shoots. He scored on fall-away jumpers. His best of the night, a spin move around C.J. Miles, who barely noticed when Bryant left his side to score. Just like that, the 14-point Jazz lead had turned into an 11-point deficit for the visiting team.
Pau Gasol, a model of efficiency, was another offensive bright spot for the Lakers. He finished with 28 points on 8-15, nine rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots. Gasol’s defense, however, was less than stellar. Newly acquired Al Jefferson, taking Carlos Boozer’s spot in the starting line-up, scored easily under the Spaniard’s watch. Even rookie forward, Gordon Hayward, 26 points on 8-10 shooting, scored easily against Gasol.
Defensive lapses occurred throughout the game, but most clearly towards the end of the third quarter. The Lakers’ double digit lead did not stick. When the reserves checked in, so did fumbled passes, missed opportunities and turnovers. The Lakers collected 20 turnovers for the evening – way too much for one game.
The offense became stagnant as well. Steve Blake went 0-7 from the field and the Lakers only managed 16 assists out of 30 made field goals. They also only shot 39% for the evening.
There are three more games left in this pre-season. Bryant is looking a lot like his normal self again and the team appears to have developed chemistry on and off the court. Between now and opening night in the NBA, the Lakers will just continue to fine tune.
Pre-Game Thoughts: Kobe vs. Raja in a Utah Jazz uniform. It’s been too long since these two went at it. Hoping for a small show.
Half-Time Thoughts: 49-44 – The first half was a complete 180 degree turn from last night’s game against Denver. The home team looks out of sync. Shooting just 36% and the Jazz shooting 55%, the Lakers are fortunate to only be down five points.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Laker bench – after gaining an 11-point lead after being down by 14, most of the starters left late in the third quarter and allowed the Jazz right back into the game.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Kobe Bryant – for never letting a possible bad shooting night deter him. 19 points – all in the third quarter.