Lakers 96, Jazz 71: Dec. 27 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home contest against Utah, the Lakers looking to snap a 2-game losing streak to start the season, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ebanks, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz: D. Harris, R. Bell, G. Hayward, D. Favors, A. Jefferson

FIRST QUARTER
2:40 After a sluggish offensive start produced only five makes in 13 attempts, Steve Blake matched LAL’s entire three-point shooting total from last night in Sacramento, and Gasol followed with two foul shots to put the home team up 16-15.

0:00 The offense didn’t get much better, but the defense stayed solid for L.A., pleasing Mike Brown on the sideline. Utah managed to hit only 7-of-23 shots (30%), allowing the Lakers an 18-17 lead after one. Here’s as good a time as any to mention L.A.’s record against Utah in STAPLES Center since the building opened: 19-4.

SECOND QUARTER
8:16 Scrappy, aggressive defense remained the story from a second unit composed of Blake, Jason Kapono, Metta World Peace, McRoberts and Troy Murphy, with Utah falling to just 29% from the field. L.A., however, wasn’t much better on offense (32%), producing a 22-all tie.

5:41 With Bryant and Gasol checking back in, L.A. found its offense, producing a quick 7-0 run to force a Jazz time out. Bryant’s jumper, Blake’s second three-pointer off Kobe’s pass and a McRoberts alley-oop slam from Blake had Jazz Coach Tyrone Corbin (who runs much of Jerry Sloan’s offense) annoyed, and down 29-22.

4:06 Out of nowhere, World Peace exploded for a one-handed hammer dunk, driving in after faking a three-pointer. Kevin Harlan said something fun on the play-by-play for TNT (apparently, just a … WOOORRRRLLD PEEEEAAAACEEEE!” Meanwhile, guest “analyst” Andy Garcia (yes, the great actor) didn’t really know what to make of it on 710 ESPN. The dunk capped a 13-0 run for the Lakers, making it a 35-22 game.

1:27 Speaking of explosive dunks, Kobe got to the rim with a tricky move around Bell, convincing the Jazz SG he was going to use Gasol’s screen going the other way, and the Spaniard added a tip in of Bryant’s near miss at the buzzer to put L.A. up 10 at the break. Utah’s shooting percentage? Just 26%.

THIRD QUARTER
8:38 With a McRoberts hoop at the rim, L.A.’s lead grew to 51-33, the buckets coming with ease as Utah continued to struggle. Leading the defensive charge was Gasol, already with four blocks, while his man – Al Jefferson – was struggling mightily with a 2-for-15 from the field, bothered by the Spaniard’s length.

5:37 More of the same, as Bryant got to the line off a basket cut, breaking his tie with Gasol at 13 points and seven boards. The Lakers were the more fluid team despite still making errors in Brown’s system, as Utah’s young talented players (several lottery picks in uniform) struggled to find any cohesion.

0:00 The not-so-hidden benefit of L.A. being up 71-46 after three was that Bryant and Gasol in particular could rest for the entire fourth quarter, barring an absurd Jazz comeback. As it was the third consecutive day of NBA basketball, the veterans were surely happy to have 12 extra minutes of rest.

FOURTH QUARTER
11:17 More World Peace to open the final period, with an and-1 leaner as the shot clock expired. Then Murphy’s extra effort got Kapono a wide-open three in front of L.A.’s bench, which swished home to put L.A. up 29 (77-48).

7:00 OK, ignore the comment to close the fourth quarter. Judging from the scores of questions on Twitter, many were confused as to why Mike Brown would put Gasol and Bryant back into the game. The easy argument is that Brown is still teaching his scheme on both ends, and wants his starters to benefit on the floor. Fisher (also checking in) had played only 21 minutes, Bryant 27 and Gasol 32, and Bryant immediately scored the next seven LAL points to push a 21-point lead to 88-62.

0:00 The final few minutes featured a “We Want Barnes” chant from the crowd, but Barnes pointed to his sore hip (bursitis, technically) as an explanation. Brown finally emptied the bench with two minutes to go. Your final score: 96-71.

Bryant finished with 26 points on 8-of-17 field goals, with eight boards and five assists, while Gasol added 22 points, nine boards, two steals and a game-high five blocks while holding Jefferson to 2-of-16 FG’s. Metta World Peace had another nice game off the bench, scoring 14 points with five boards and a steal. L.A. also committed only nine turnovers, which was a problem in their first two games, and held the Jazz to right around 30 percent from the field.