The shot clocks at Energy Solutions Arena weren’t the only things broken in this game. Number one in the league from 3PT, the Lakers shot just 4-15 from behind the arc tonight, scored 33 points on 68% shooting in the first quarter but got outscored 29-17 in the second and shot just 42% for the game. The Laker bench couldn’t buy a hoop going just 5-21 from the field, and the defense by the visiting team? Porous, slow and disconnected.
The Lakers led by as many as 19 points in the second quarter, getting practically everything they wanted on both ends of the floor. Lamar Odom (16 points on 5-8, 10 rebounds, five assists) dribbled from Utah’s basket to the Lakers’ hoop numerous times, meeting little to no resistance. Neither Paul Millsap nor Andrei Kirilenko could stop him and he knew it, but he scored eight points in the first quarter, yet only eight points across the final 36 minutes. His defense on Millsap was solid early on, and he drew two fouls on the Jazz forward early in the first quarter to take him out of the game, but he lost sight of or stopped accounting for Kirilenko often enough and got burned when he did.
Pau Gasol was brilliant offensively again, 21 points on 9-14 shooting and he also collected 11 rebounds and handed out four assists. His defense, however, is still lacking stability. As a center, his job is to protect the paint, be the last line of defense – contest shots, box out, rebound etc. Gasol had one block today and he met an oncoming Deron Williams (29 points on 10-14, 12 assists) throughout the course of the game but failed each and every time to hinder the Jazz guard even a smidge. Yes, Williams’ floaters are near impossible to contest without the possibility of getting called for a goal tend, but an underhanded scoop shot from under the hoop? That should’ve been met with some resistance and it wasn’t.
The Lakers’ reserves, who have been contributing consistently lately, had a less than stellar game…ok, they were pretty awful, probably the least productive than they have been all season. After shooting the lights out against Chicago, Steve Blake went 0-4 from 3PT, 0-7 from the field and Shannon Brown was just 2-8 from the field. Matt Barnes, the only productive reserve for the Lakers, managed to get eight points on 3-6 and five rebounds in just over 20 minutes of play.
Kobe Bryant wasn’t having his most efficient shooting night…until the fourth quarter. With the Lakers trailing 85-82, Bryant went to work, hitting two from downtown, which he followed with a stepback fadeaway over Raja Bell, which he followed with another three, which he followed with three free throws after he was fouled by Kirilenko. In less than three minutes, Bryant outscored the Jazz 14-6, giving the Lakers a 96-91 lead with two and a half minutes to play.
To leave with a win, all the Lakers had to do was play lockdown defense for 2:32 and try to build on that five point lead that Bryant created. They did neither, failing to defend Williams behind the three-point line and then turning the ball over and letting Raja Bell get out for an uncontested layup. After Bryant went on his 14-point tirade, the Lakers were outscored 11-0 and left Energy Solutions Arena with their third loss of the season.
Aside from the lack of bench contribution, an off shooting night from three, and the still inconsistent defense, offensive rebounding was a problem for the Lakers tonight. Of the Lakers’ 38 rebounds, only nine were offensive, costing numerous second chances to score after coming up empty on so many possessions and the Lakers came up empty often Of the Jazz’s 42 rebounds, 36 were defensive!
Large leads are never safe in the NBA, especially in the first quarter and especially not against the Utah Jazz. It’s a game that the Lakers could have won, but they move on to Indiana for Sunday’s game.
Pre-game Thoughts: Energy Solutions Arena, one of the hardest places to play for visiting teams. Tonight won’t be easy for the Lakers, but surely they’re up for the challenge.
Half-time Thoughts: 50-46 – The Lakers led by as many as 19 points but failed to maintain their momentum, allowing the Jazz bench to erase all but a four-point advantage.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: The Renegades have been playing and contributing so well that they’ve rarely been seen in this category, but tonight there was no denying that their lack of production hurt the team’s chance to win tonight. The shot just 5-21 from the field, Steve Blake went 0-7 and that 19-point lead disappeared partly when they had come in to replace the starters.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Kobe Bryant – To come back into the game in the fourth quarter and just score 14 points in a row is amazing. He singlehandedly outscored the Jazz 14-6. It’s a shame his teammates couldn’t help him close it out.