Utah should have known better.
Surely they’re aware how the Lakers feel about the color green, particularly the kelly shade, right?
Nonetheless, the Jazz showed up at STAPLES Center on Wednesday evening wearing throwbacks from the 1979-80 season that may as well have been picked out of an Irish meadow.
And despite playing the typically tough brand of basketball promoted by 21-year head coach Jerry Sloan to take a four-point lead into the half and an eight-point lead into a mid-third-quarter time out, the Jazz were absolutely muted by an attacking purple and gold defense that ceded just six fourth quarter points to Utah in a 101-77 victory.
Repeat: six fourth quarter points.
“They came out and just destroyed us,” said Sloan. “We were hanging in the ball game but that just shows you what a great team they have.”
Those six points came on 2-of-18 shooting plus two free throws, good for the lowest total L.A.’s allowed since Dec. 14, 1999, when the Clippers scored three points in the second quarter. Meanwhile, L.A. put up a hefty 28, which combined with an 18-8 close to the third quarter turned that eight-point deficit into a 24-point win.
“That was an amazing quarter,” said Phil Jackson. “We were able to apply some pressure … subsequently got tougher shots, 24-second violations, turnovers and things happened for us. I think once that happened, it just became like an avalanche.”
Indeed, there was no jazz played by the Lakers in the second half. It sounded more like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” or perhaps “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns and Roses.
“They are a great team to start with but they are also one of the great defensive teams,” Sloan continued. “That is what has made them so good.”
In the process of another double-digit victory, L.A.’s ninth in 10 games, the leprechaun-clad Jazz became the 10th straight victim of the Lakers, sporting traditional purple and gold.
Things were starting to look a bit sketchy for the Lakers in that third quarter, but one got the sense that they were waiting to step on the gas pedal, which Kobe Bryant certainly did with 13 points in the period. Bryant then set up Jordan Farmar’s quarter-ending three to give the Lakers a lead they’d not relinquish.
But while the score remained close, the tide had completely turned in L.A.’s favor, and the group of Farmar/Sasha Vujacic/Ron Artest/Lamar Odom/Andrew Bynum locked down the paint and flew around the perimeter defensively. Meanwhile, Farmar scored eight points, Vujacic nailed his only three-point attempt, Artest put back two misses after clearing rebounds, Odom grabbed four boards and Bynum had three boards plus three free throws. Then Bryant and Pau Gasol checked back in to bury the Jazz even further before Shannon Brown and Josh Powell joined the fray to close out the contest.
In short, L.A. got a little something from everybody.
When the final whistle blew, the Lakers had caused nine fourth quarter turnovers – including two 24-second violations – while committing not a single turnover themselves.
“Defensive energy,” said Bynum in summation. “Defensive intensity. Everybody was on the rope out there. They weren’t getting those bounce passes through and they were kind of searching for a way to score.”
“We really locked it in defensively and everybody was playing together on both ends of the floor,” Farmar agreed.
The play of the quarter came with 4:52 remaining: Farmar picked off a C.J. Miles pass and quickly outletted the ball on the left side of the court near the baseline to Odom, who promptly bounced the ball through his legs to a trailing Artest. Ron Ron, in one motion, swung the ball to the opposite side of the rim to Farmar, who had caught up before rising to lay the ball through the hoop with two hands.
Pretty, pretty stuff, and certainly indicative of L.A.’s masterful final period.
In short, the Jazz may as well have changed their name to “Celtics” on this night, because to the Lakers, seeing green was seeing red.
L.A. has a chance to make it 11 straight wins when Kurt Rambis and the Minnesota Timberwolves come to town on Friday night. Until then, your numbers:
2 Field goals made by the Jazz in the fourth quarter, as they finished a putrid 2-of-18 (11.1 percent) with the Lakers swarming.
4 Games Ron Artest had gone without missing a free throw until finally missing his final attempt in this one. Though starting the season poorly from the charity stripe, Artest has now made 12-of-his-last-13.
6 Fourth quarter points by the Jazz, the fewest L.A. has allowed since the Clippers managed just three points in the second quarter of a Dec. 14, 1999 contest.
9 Final quarter Jazz turnovers forced by the Lakers, who committed zero themselves.
11 Offensive rebounds conceded by the Lakers in the first half, helping the Jazz hold a 52-48 lead at the half. While the Lakers lead the league in rebounding, they’re nearly at the bottom in offensive rebounds allowed.
13 Third quarter points for Kobe Bryant, en route to a game-high 27 on the night.
- Also the number of consecutive Jazz losses in STAPLES Center.
52 Points in the paint for L.A., to 36 for Utah.