As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.
Lakers: Jordan Farmar, D.J. Mbenga
Jazz: Morris Almond, Carlos Boozer, Kyrylo Fesenko
It’s been a little bit, huh folks? My fingers are going to need a quarter or so to get adjusted after the layoff … And you’ve probably been to the gym at least three times, using your new membership that you’ll cancel after January, since the Lakers last played on Sunday night, scoring 130 points against the Golden State Warriors.
Hitting 130 won’t be as easy tonight, with Jerry Sloan’s bunch in the house (let’s just say the Jazz don’t like to let people run free through the paint like our friends from Oakland). A few areas of focus on the floor for the Lakers:
A) Don’t let Deron Williams be both a scorer and a passer – make him choose one.
B) Don’t let Mehmet Okur expose his mismatch with Bynum/Gasol from three.
C) Overcome a possible sluggish start due to the long layoff.
I’ll keep an eye on those items, and try to overcome my oversight of watching David Beckham’s cameo in the pregame video (never a good thing).
Lakers: Fish, Kobe, Luke, Pau and Bynum
Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Miles, Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur
The one thing to note there is Millsap’s presence, as he was questionable going into the game. He’s been a double-double machine (16 straight games) since taking the starting power forward role for Utah in the absence of Carlos Boozer, but missed the last three games with a sprained left PCL.
10:41 Who said sluggish start? Was that me? Two quick buckets from Kobe, the first a post-up on Williams and the second a dunk in transition, and L.A. was up 4-0.
8:23 Bynum hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it 11-4, but more importantly, Jack’s back in his usual seat after a brief two-game hiatus. I think I speak for everyone at STAPLES when I express how much better I feel with him in the building. In related news, I watched the “Bucket List” yesterday. The best part was when Morgan Freeman mentioned “Chomolungma,” which is what the Nepalese call Mt. Everest. I like that word so much that I named two fantasy squads after it. In case you’re wondering, it means: “Goddess, Mother of the Earth.”
6:04 Two solid hustle plays from Pau: first a swat of Millsap on the baseline, then a dive to regain possession seconds later. Gasol would then make the extra pass to a wide-open Fisher, who canned a baseline jumper and gave the Lakers a 17-6 lead. Seriously, whoever mentioned that L.A. might come out of the gate slow is an idiot.
4:38 Utah hit the 8-point margin! Shooting 3-for-14 wasn’t helping their cause, but we should credit a very active Lakers defense. Swarming, if you will.
3:58 Sasha Vujacic checks in for Fish. Backup PG? Officially?
3:00 Cho-mo-lung-ma. Just say it.
1:30 Utah shows its first signs of life with back-to-back hoops from newly-checked-in Andrei Kirilenko and Okur to cut L.A.’s lead to 31-18. The Jazz had been playing at the pace at which Toby from “The Office” talks.
0:00 Just got a report from our PR staff that Williams went to get his ankle re-taped in the locker room. Remember, he’s already missed 13 games this season due to an ankle injury suffered in the preseason, so we’ll keep an eye on this.
Meanwhile, the Lakers boosted their lead to 37-20 at quarter’s end on a Gasol put-back of an Odom miss. For Pau, that’s a game-high 11 points with seven boards and two assists (plus a swat). That’s decent. The Lakers shot 11-of-20, turned the ball over just once and scored 14 points in the paint.
12:00 Williams back on the floor. Apparently he’s fine.
11:25 Bynum just caught an alley-oop thrown about 78 feet in the air by Fisher – and stuffed it. Ty and I aren’t sure another NBA player could have caught and jammed that pass … Yao can’t jump, Shaq’s too big/old … even LeBron doesn’t quite have the length. Oh wait … Dwight Howard. Never mind. One other player.
8:38 Katie Perry’s “Hot and Cold” was blaring in the background, as Utah rookie Kosta Koufos walked onto the floor out of a timeout. I’m not sure why this fits, but it does. Also, I hear Sam Cassell’s been recruiting Koufos for the All-NBA good looks team. That may or may not be a lie.
6:34 Kobe did a little slicing and dicing through Utah’s paint and finished with a flush to put the Lakers up 20, 48-28 into a timeout. That’s 12 points, three assists and three boards for Bryant.
5:37 Kobe’s steal was L.A.’s fifth, to just one for the Jazz, who happen to lead the league in swipes (306).
Earlier I mentioned an A, B and C heading into tonight’s game.
A) Don’t let Deron Williams be both a scorer and a passer – make him choose one. (How about neither so far? DW had two points and four assists at the three-minute mark)
B) Don’t let Mehmet Okur expose his mismatch with Bynum/Gasol from three. (Okur has yet to attempt a three, and is a game-worst -19).
C) Overcome a possible sluggish start due to the long layoff. (Did I write that? The score was 53-33 with three minutes left in the half.)
Kobe Named Western Conference Player of the Month
We’ll have a release on this later, but congrats Kobe.
0:25 A quick two buckets in the final minute chipped four points off L.A.’s lead, which stood at 57-43 at the half. L.A. thoroughly dominated the entire half, but a 14-point deficit certainly isn’t unheard of for a solid Jazz team. Unless the Lakers keep playing like they’ve been playing, of course…
L.A. cooled off a bit in the second quarter by making 9-of-22 shots (40.9 percent), but the Jazz were a shot worse (9-of-23). L.A. controlled the glass 24-22, including six off the bench from Ariza, and got eight points off the pine from Odom. Kirilenko managed eight points of his own off Utah’s bench, while Okur led the Jazz with 12 points.
6:47 Sure, enough, the Jazz picked up their play considerably, led by three quick dimes from Williams, to L.A.’s lead to six on a Ronnie Brewer layup.
5:35 Make that three. A C.J. Miles triple chopped the lead in half, and at the same time woke up a rather relaxed STAPLES Center crowd. Kobe answered the call with a deep jumper, but nonetheless, we now have a ball game.
5:00 I thought about letting Ty roll again in this running diary, but that was never going to happen with Arizona State’s hoops squad playing at Stanford. His No. 14 Sun Devils, led by the guy he calls “King James” (not LeBron), are up 30 … But he still won’t take his eyes off ESPN.com’s Gamecast. In related news, the Lopez twins left Stanford* after last season.
*Ty would like me to mention that Stanford was undefeated heading into the game. Pretty sure no one cares.
4:04 Gasol’s jumper followed a slick Odom lefty layup to put L.A. up seven. Before the game, Jackson again emphasized that Gasol’s place on the All-Star team isn’t even a question, explaining that the coaches knew quite well how good Pau is, even if he’s fifth among Western forwards.
2:25 A re-emphasis on defense helped spur L.A.’s 10-2 run, capped by a Gasol put-back dunk that gave L.A. a 75-64 edge. Let’s not sleep on the importance of such a stretch, which came as a direct answer to Utah’s energy push. Also, don’t sleep on “Bromance.” Sure, the guys and MTV put Brody on a Dillon McKay type pedestal, but it’s still a solid 20 minutes of comedy.
21.8 Two free throws from a hanging Bryant gave him 28 points (11 in the quarter) and pushed L.A.’s lead back to 15.
4.0 Terrific defensive steal by Ariza results in a great look at a three in transition from Vujacic … But he missed, then promptly collapsed to the floor as if he were Brett Favre after listening to Thomas Jones’ comments on New York radio this week. Vujacic is 1-for-5 from the field (he did not appear on Lakers.com after shootaround today).
10:55 Vujacic harasses Millsap after a rebound for a good six seconds of flailing limbs. That’s happening every night no matter what he does after shootaround.
Sidenote: The only rational I can come up with for Bynum’s two rebounds in 22 minutes is his lack of involvement defensively since he’s been covering Koufos at times, and hasn’t gone near Okur. Gasol has 10 boards in 29 minutes, while Odom has four off the bench. He does have three blocks going for him.
7:35 Smart play from Fisher to take the ball to the hoop after pumping Williams into the air. Millsap couldn’t slide over in time, and fouled Fish. That three-point play gave L.A. an 87-77 lead. Nonetheless, a Williams jumper (six points on only three attempts??) saw Kobe and Pau check back into the game. Speaking of Williams, he’s clearly (like I said, three field goal attempts) working exclusively as a passer tonight, and while his 10 dimes are nice, Utah’s really missed a second offensive threat after Okur. The Jazz do have two other players (Millsap and Brewer) in double figures, but Brewer’s points have all come spoon-fed from Williams or within the offense, and Millsap’s have mostly been courtesy of his six offensive rebounds.
6:08 If one of Kobe’s New Year’s resolutions is to get to the free throw line more in 2009, Lakers fans will be happy. After drawing another foul, he’s 10-of-11 from the line and has 33 points. To be fair, though, Kobe said after Wednesday’s practice that he doesn’t make resolutions. Plus, the Jazz have always fouled players in the lane rather than concede any easy layups, so they’re routinely giving up big free throw attempt numbers to slashers. 91-81, Lakers.
4:15 With a pesky Jazz team getting four more points from Millsap*, Bryant responded with a two-handed dunk in traffic, courtesy of a pretty Gasol feed, to put the Lakers up eight.
*Millsap had 16 points and 15 boards, seven offensive, to that point. I’d mention this specifically to Carlos Boozer, were he not explicit about his interest in “testing” the free agent market by opting out of his deal.
2:55 A Lakers’ turnover led to Kirilenko’s wide-open dunk to cut the lead to 97-93, after Williams had canned a jumper on the previous possession.
Enter Trevor Ariza…
2:22 A terrific steal from Ariza on Miles resulted in the former’s and-1 layup, before he registered another steal on the next possession, then grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back to quickly push L.A.’s lead back to 11 and bury the Jazz for good.
0:35 Amazing, ridiculous through the legs dribble/no look double-clutch pass from … Pau Gasol … resulting in an Ariza flush. You must YouTube that play. The Spaniard’s skill level is something else.
0:23 Mehmet Okur just became one of the most hated players this season at STAPLES by canning an unnecessary three.
0:13.1 Two more Gasol free throws not only made the final score 113-100, but gave him points number 10,000 and 10,001 points for his career. But I’ll take that dime… (again, please, YouTube that).