“There’s no sense of urgency in this team right now,” a very candid Phil Jackson said to Bill MacDonald before the game. He also added, “And the coaches can’t push the stick hard enough up their butts to do it.” Talk about honesty.

Phil and the rest of the Lakers coaching staff looked more dejected and frustrated during the last road trip than they have been all season, and who could blame them?

The team was given a 5-0 challenge before they set off for a week and a half away from Staples Center, and managed to come 3 games short of completing the mission.

They played some of the most unfocused, uninspired, spiritless games that were far from what championship-caliber ball should look like and this game tonight was an undeniable must-win for this team.

A homecoming game against the red-hot Utah Jazz posed a welcome opportunity to play better in front of a friendly audience, but it also came with one gigantic caveat. A road trip wrought with quick guards, the likes of Russell Westbrook, Aaron Brooks, Chris Paul, and Jamal Crawford, it was only fitting, in a challenging post All-Star Game schedule, that even the first home game after a road trip would be against another thorn in the collective Laker foot — Deron Williams.

A team’s first field goal is often indicative of how the rest of the game will play out. The Lakers’ first points came from a running Kobe Bryant pass to a flying Lamar Odom, and that was just the beginning.

The first quarter for the home team was one filled with energy on both ends of the court. Laker defense stifled the Jazz into a mere 16 quarter points to the Lakers’ 33, and Lamar’s 11 points were quite the contribution.

Paul Gasol had only five points in the first period, but he also had four assists, an indication of the part he played in tonight’s game — facilitator extraordinaire. Pau finished with a near triple double, collecting 14 points, 16 rebounds and 9 assists. He can pass the rock just as well as he can shoot with that left hand, and his nine assists of the evening is a reminder that his skills go way beyond scoring. He hit Derek with an entry pass for a quick lay-up, threw an overhead pass to a slashing Lamar. There is a reason Pau asks for as many touches as he can get. The man’s size, his court vision, not to mention his passing skills — all are unmatched by any 7-footer in the league.

Though the lead swelled to 19 points in the second quarter, the Jazz, never a team easily discouraged, rode the offensive coattails of Deron Williams, unguardable for 20 points and 10 assists in the game. He is often placed second to Chris Paul on the elite list of point guards, but his game is more muscle than quickness and his savvy is Jazz gold.

The rest of the game played out with each team taking turns at wheel of momentum. Though the Jazz closed the gap to four points with 10:33 minutes left in the game, Lamar checked in after having sat for most of the third quarter due to foul trouble, and took over. He hit a three, then completed an and-1, and then hit another from downtown.

Before you could say, “We Want Tacos!” the Laker lead was back to 17 and the home team never looked back.

Tonight’s win was a definite group effort, as every victory should be. Kobe Bryant finished with 25 points, but only succeeded five times in 23 attempts. He acquired a great portion of his point total from the free throw line which, since he managed to get there 18 times, was a silver lining.

Derek Fisher, who finished with 14 points on 5-7 shooting, hit his two first shot attempts in the game, and for someone whose scoring contribution is not relied on often, early activity at the hoop was a welcome sight.

The Laker bench collected 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists, an improvement to be sure.

Every starter sat on the bench in the fourth quarter, laughing and cheering on as the reserves finished the last four minutes. The bench players even managed a crowd-rousing sequence.

D.J. Mbenga blocked a Utah attempt to score, Sasha Vujacic rebounded, ran and passed to a sprinting Jordan Farmar, who threw up a lob for a Josh Powell dunk. If they could play with as much energy as they did in those last few minutes, their contributions would be valuable.

In his post-game interview, Lamar said that what the team holds most important right now is just “playing the right way.” With the post-season looming, let’s hope this game was another beginning to a great ending.

Pre-game Thoughts: Home sweet home.

Half-time Thoughts: Lakers are up by nine. Yes, they lost a 19-point lead, but the point is they’re UP.

Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Kobe Bryant — managed 25 points, but had to take 23 shots to get it. Yikes! Thank goodness for your 3-year extension though.

Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Lamar Odom — season high 26 points on 11/14 (including 3 from downtown), 10 rebounds, 3 assists, one block, and only one turnover. He was a whopping +30 tonight! It is amazing how different a team the Lakers look when Odom is aggressive on the floor.

  • jackmode211

    kobe most thoughtless???just for taking 23 shots….thats silly….and please dont say he should stop shooting….cuz anyone who has played basketball knows shooters should never stop shooting…plus he stayed agressive earning his points at the line…

    • Anthony_Effe

      I don't think she wants him to stop shooting. None of us here would, but rather that he takes better shots. The more Kobe plays facilitator and shooter the better off the Lakers are. I can understand having an off night, but when he's shooting that way it would be wiser to get the others more involved. Especially when Odom is in a groove like that.

      I believe Kobe easily gets MTP tonight because all us fans always expect more out of him. When he gives us poor shooting or turnovers (which has become something he does a lot lately) or just a bad game in general it's massively amplified.

      • airkobe

        i repeat he shoot less and had more assist on the 3 losses at the road. what better shots? he's taking the same shot in every game he played. if it is kobe's night it is kobe's night no matter how hard the shot look like…for a long time you still don't know he's game…I'm sorry but your still going to see that kind of shot untill 2013-2014 season…

      • airkobe


      • Anna

        Kobe missed a lot of shots that he usually makes. I'm sure he just had an off night. Let me stand corrected and say Kobe wasn't the thoughtless one. It was his shots themselves that were thoughtless…on their way to the rim. =)

  • welll

    Great article as usual, but can we please move back to the old commenting system? My web browser always crashes, I don't like it at all.

    I'd have to disagree as well with Kobe as the thoughtless player. My vote goes to Sasha for him taking so damn long to finally do whatever he had to to get back on the court. Could have used everyone we had back when we had those last two games and he totally picked the wrong time to be butthurt about how he feels about his role.

    • Anna

      I know. It took me awhile to give the thoughtless award to anyone, but Kobe had an off night and that's what I based it on. I don't think I've ever put him in that category. I'm sure it won't happen very often =)

  • http://lakers-edge.com/ dEDGE

    We just reduced the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference to rubble and we're worried about Kobe taking too many shots…? What better time is there for Kobe to try to regain his shooting touch?

    • lakermarc

      I see your point but the Lakers outclassed the UTAH last night, Kobe has a bad habit of doing that alot these last 3 months and it was contributed to lots of their off-balance offense and thus, LOSSES!!!!! …cuz when you just throw up a shitty shot and you don't rebound it ………..what happens next?………opponents turn X1, X2, X20… lose!!!!

      • airkobe

        hahahaha! kobe just had a bad shooting night an easy look that didn't count but still manage to tally 25 points with 18 ft. I think he did shot less but more assist on the last 3 loss on the road, assist counts only when your team mates made the shot and pau got the benefit of it. was it kobe the only laker who fought hard on that road games? last night was an indication that he fought hard by tripping his self to the line 18 times! imagine if he only had less 10 shots on the freebies lakers might had lost!

  • Chillax

    Anna writes the best articles

    • pau

      Its true, but its not hard to do when everyone else just copied and pasted sections from each article into the next.

      • Anna

        I don't read anyone else's articles before I write the postgame, Pau. You can do it next time if you want =)

        Thanks, Chillax.

  • lakermarc

    It was awesome to see them play that way and even better live. THIS is the team I love and worship!!!! It really was Good Friday.

  • cees33

    there yoou go LO!

  • Marwan Marzina

    If you've watched Kobe play for as long as I have, you would know when ever Kobe goes 4 – 20+ then you would know that next game he comes out and completely lights up the other team. You want an example? Game 4 of 1st round playoffs, against Jazz. Game 3 he was off all game, he was 5-25 and missed game winner. Next game came out and made almost every shot and finished 18-25.
    I'm just saying, watch next game. He will destroy the Spurs.