Lakers – Jazz Running Diary

56703874As 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.

Previous Lakers – Jazz Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers – Jazz Running Diary 1-2-2009
Lakers 113, Jazz 100: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Shannon Brown, Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Jazz: Carlos Boozer, Kyrylo Fesenko

Starters
Lakers Fish, Kobe, Luke, Lamar and Pau
Jazz Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Miles, Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur

Kobe BryantIs anyone else as upset as I am that Ty Nowell’s not doing this diary? Unfortunately, he’s not on the trip here in Salt Lake City, meaning his general wit and sarcasm will stay in his mind back in L.A. Particularly upsetting is you won’t get to hear all about James Harden or Arizona State athletics. Let me apologize on behalf of Lakers.com.

First Quarter
9:35 Much like he did against the Thunder for much of Tuesday night’s game, Kobe spent some early time down on the box, using his strength advantage on Miles for two easy hoops that preceded a Gasol dunk – from a slick Odom pass – to give L.A. its first lead at 8-7.

8:04 My left eardrum popped when a crazy Jazz fan sitting two feet away from me screamed as if he’d fallen through the glass floor of Toronto’s CN Tower. What actually happened was Miles hitting a three.

6:02 Fisher for three and a 17-all tie as the boos rise steadily; Utah’s been booing Fish since he asked out of his contract in part to move to a place like L.A. to benefit his daughter’s health. Only a tad, tiny bit unfair, huh?

567039164:02 Utah would have one of the league’s better benches when healthy. On paper, here’s what it looks like: Andrei Kirilenko, Matt Harpring, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Ronnie Price and even rookie Kosta Koufous. It’s deep, big and talented. But with Boozer and Kirilenko out, Millsap moved into the starting lineup at the four, with Miles playing the three and thus weakening the pine.

2:23 About a week ago, one of L.A.’s PR interns asked Fisher his least favorite place to play in the league. It took him all of 0.00003 seconds to say, flatly, “Utah.” That unique motivation accounted for eight points on 2-of-2 from the field and 3-of-3 from the line as he tied the game with a jumper.

0:02.6 Before the game, Phil Jackson mentioned that he’s been a fan of Jordan Farmar’s contributions of late. We saw it for ourselves with a good decision in the final second: Farmar made sure the clock dwindled nearly all the way down before dumping off to Gasol in the lane, resulting in a hard foul and 1-of-2 free throws to cut Utah’s lead to 31-29 at the break.

Bryant led the way with 12 points on efficient 6-of-8 shooting, while Odom stayed on his rebounding pace (actually a little behind) with four window cleans. The Lakers shot 52.1 percent from the field and turned the ball over three times in the period.

Second Quarter
11:25 Good start for the Lakers in the quarter with an Ariza slashing layup off Vujacic’s setup. I don’t think Sasha’s been getting enough credit for his playmaking off the bench of late. Defenders are expecting him to shoot and jumping straight at him, and he’s taking advantage by finding the open guy.

9:03 The refs have decided not to call fouls in the paint to this point. Both Gasol and Powell clearly got hit on one possession, but didn’t find any interested officials. Utah was more than happy to clear the rebound and head the other way as Jerry Sloan looked on approvingly.

6:48 D-Will takes advantage of another no call that had Bryant giving the ref a look that should be reserved for drunk Real World JD with a jumper that put Utah up 46-40.

5:01 Odom waltzed in for one of his silky smooth lefty layups out of a timeout, thanks in part to a nice Bryant screen. That same play worked a few minutes earlier, in fact, and should be called four to 17 more times tonight. Four-point game.

4:08 Peezy put-back. For those still unaware of Josh Powell’s nickname, No. 21 just grabbed Odom’s missed triple and threw it back down with two hands. Too bad no one was available for a “Hood Hop,” as Peezy likes to call his jumping back five. If you’re a Lakers fan, I fully recommend doing the Hop every time Powell does something cool, which is at least five times on the court and 25 times on the bench per game*.
*For example, before the game starts, Peezy will high-five Trevor Ariza, then dance around in a circle for about 15 seconds before sealing the deal with another high-five.

2:47 As Bryant makes a technical free throw to cut Utah’s lead to 51-50 (I think it was on Sloan?), I take you back to the timeout. Utah’s mascot got up on a tall ladder, stood fully on top of the little top step (while fully dressed in his clompy bear outfit) and started waving two huge signs. This is insane, but not surprising because Minnesota’s mascot (Crunch) told me the Jazz guy it out of his mind.

567041302:29 An MVP-type play from Bryant occurred when he first slapped the ball away from Okur, then gathered the rock by knocking it past D-Will, then saved it from going out of bounds with some help from the ref before finally taking a foul at the hoop on Korver, hanging and finishing to give L.A. a 53-51 lead. In related news, Kobe Bryant’s good at hoops.

0:40 L.A. continued to play very well in the quarter despite the chorus of boos, getting an Odom put-back layup (seen that at all this week?), a Gasol layup from Bryant and two Kobe free throws to go up 61-57.

The half closed with Fisher converting a really tough layup in traffic for to become the fourth Laker in double-figures (joining Bryant [20], Gasol [11] and Odom [10]) that was answered by two Korver free throws on a touch foul from Vujacic. Bryant was looking for the stripes to return the favor with two seconds remaining, but didn’t get the call, making it 63-61 L.A. at the break.

How did the Jazz stay in the game despite the Lakers controlling the glass (22-13), having equal turnovers (six) and seeing L.A. shoot an effective 56.5 percent and outscore them 38-26 in the paint? Utah shot even better, making 25-of-40 shots (62.5 percent). That L.A. still led when the opponent was on fire is a good sign, as the jumpers stop falling at some point.

Third Quarter
9:50 Gasol battled through a Gasol-Millsap double-team to score L.A.’s first points of the quarter, giving the Lakers a 65-63 lead. Allow me to mention one other big edge for L.A. in the first half: offensive rebounding. Lamar Odom alone had three more (the same as the Jazz) and the Lakers as a team grabbed nine.

9:01 Speaking of LO … he went back on the glass, tipping his first tip 56703353to himself, to get to 13 boards for the game. His season-high of 18 came last night, on the heels of 17 in Cleveland, and his career high is 22, which came on March. 23 last season against Golden State.

6:38 The Jazz just figure if they foul their opponent on every possession, the refs can’t call them all, and tonight’s been no different to the previous 20 years of Jerry Sloan basketball. A sequence that surely had Jazz fans happy and Lakers fans furious came as Odom got hit in the head trying to grab another offensive board (no call) before Gasol and Walton got called for off-ball fouls on defense. No opinions here, just saying what happened.

5:57 You’ll get an idea what kind of crowd we’re dealing with when the loudest cheer of the night came not on a great Jazz play, but when Bryant air-balled a turnaround. Lots of venom in the building, folks.* As it turned out, Lakers sideline reporter John Ireland and I watched the replay of that shot, which clearly showed Ronnie Brewer slapping Bryant’s arm. No wonder it missed by two feet.
*Note to self, look for the exit after the third quarter to make a quick get-away.

There were a total of 14 points, eight for Utah, scored in those first six minutes to give us a 69-all tie.

3:26 The intensity level went up about four notches as both teams started taking the ball hard to the hoop, forcing the refs to make decisions. While Gasol drew an offensive foul on Okur, Williams then get the call his way for a three-point play. Bryant then missed a triple, and Williams (who looks completely, fully, 100 percent back from his ankle injury) pulled up for two to cap an 11-4 run that saw Utah up 80-73. Admittedly, that drew a bigger cheer than Bryant’s air ball.

1:31 A terrific driving dish from Farmar (who checked in just before Vujacic) resulted in an Odom layup to cut the lead to three at 81-78.

0:21.3 Great time for an Ariza three it was, as Utah had been set to head into the locker room up five.

0:05.3 The lead could have been back to four after Ronnie Price hit two free throws, but instead Farmar decided to streak up the floor and finish a tough one-handed pull-up in the lane to make it 87-85 Jazz. That’s the kind of stretch L.A. needs from its bench, which chipped five points off the Jazz lead.

Fourth Quarter
11:40 Farmar to Powell for a wide-open dunk and a tie game thanks to a slick driving bounce pass once the defense had rotated to the point guard. You have to hand it to Farmar, he with nine points and four dimes in 12 minutes. That’s some terrific production-per-minute, huh Captain Obvious?

10:38 Not as terrific was Farmar’s attempt to guard an in-the-zone Williams, who way-too-easily entered the lane on consecutive possessions in making his 12th shot in 16 attempts (75 percent). L.A.’s going to have to consider putting Bryant on his Olympic teammate to close this game out…

8:30 We’ve been talking about how many minutes Gasol’s played lately, and tonight’s been no exception (34 to this point). Jackson finally had to give him a rest, bringing Odom back on the court alongside Odom with the Lakers trailing 95-90. That lead soon grew to eight on Millsap’s three-point play, matching Utah’s biggest lead of the night.

6:14 After missing a long jumper out of a high pick and roll, Bryant 56703943pulled up for three and missed again. Brewer came back on the other end, spun in the lane and dunked with two-hands to Utah’s newest biggest lead at 101-92.

Eight games, 14 days, eight different cities seems to have caught up to the Lakers, particularly Gasol who looks gassed.

5:35 But not too gassed to find Vujacic alone for three. Sasha sunk it, though Korver answered with a quick two.

The next series was all Odom, who on offense converted an and-1 layup at the hoop (17 points, 17 boards) before swatting Brewer next to the rim on defense. Jazz 103, Lakers 98.

3:29 He makes ‘em when he has to, right? Odom sunk two free throws after missing his first two of the night to cut the lead to four (Williams had hit 1-of-2 on the previous possession). Bryant would then draw a shooting foul heading into a timeout with three minutes left, tasked with bringing the Lakers within two.

1:38 Mamba. Where does it come from? Bryant mustered that inner beast inside him to elevate for a cold-blooded 25-foot three that put the Lakers up one after his team had trailed by nine just five minutes earlier, appearing to have finally lost their collective gas. How ’bout that. The shot was enabled by two straight tough defensive stops by the Lakers…

1:27… Another of which they couldn’t muster on a picture perfect pick-and-roll from Williams to Millsap, plus the foul. Jazz by two.

1:02 Silliness yet again. After missing consecutive jumpers on the same possession, Bryant took the rebound right out of Korver’s hands and made a game-tying layup. Kind of stupid.

0:42.8 Mehmet Okur, for three. Finally another team managed a potential death blow of its own.

0:29.9 Bryant couldn’t get a game-tying three to go, and L.A. had to foul Williams, who made 1-of-2 for a four-point lead, but fell into Fischer after the loose ball found its way in Fish’s hands. Fisher made both free throws, resulting in a 111-109 Jazz lead.

0:20.6 Williams complied with L.A.’s wishes by missing 1-of-2 free throws, but Fisher couldn’t find the net on two different three-point attempts in the final seconds, resulting in L.A.’s 10th loss of the season alongside its 42 wins.

Perhaps that sour taste in L.A.’s mouth that will linger over the four-day All-Star break ends up being a good thing, a motivating factor for the home stretch? We’ll see.