LAL 99, UTAH 103: March 18 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening road contest vs. Utah, the Lakers looking for a sixth straight win, 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, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz: D. Harris, J. Howard, C.J. Miles, P. Millsap, D. Favors

FIRST QUARTER
6:44 After nailing his fourth three-pointer of the season, Gasol flashed down the lane and took a pretty Blake pass up to throw down a one-handed dunk, giving him a game-high seven points. The Lakers were effectively pounding it inside, Bynum adding six to give the seven-footers all 13 points in a tie game, but the reason they were tied was not so pleasing to Mike Brown: seven turnovers, three on Bynum.

0:00 L.A.’s season high in turnovers in one game is 27 (vs. Memphis, 1/8), so having 10 in the first Q wasn’t all that strong. However, Utah managed only a 23-20 lead, with Gasol’s seven points leading the Lakers.

SECOND QUARTER
10:27 There’s been some discussion regarding whether Ramon Sessions should start or come off the bench, which Mike Brown answered early by saying Blake will stay with the starters for now, especially as Sessions learns the offense. However, an early benefit of having Sessions off the bench was shown in the second, as the PG repeatedly got into Utah’s paint (perhaps the most important asset he brings the Lakers) and created havoc. A few alley-oops, some free throws, and some transition offense spurred by Sessions had L.A.’s bench on a 12-4 run to start the second, opening a 32-27 lead.

4:21 After starting the game 0-for-6, Kobe hit two free throws and then his first field goal, a three that made it a 41-33 Lakers lead. Sessions was effective in pushing the lead out, but he too was cold from the field, missing all four of his shots (3-of-4 FT’s).

0:00 Having opened a 10-point lead and seemingly figured out their problems, L.A. subsequently went right back into the tank, committing more turnovers (17 total, including five from Bynum and four from Kobe) as the Jazz closed the half on a 12-1 run to lead 45-44 at the break.

THIRD QUARTER
6:12 We know that Utah plays among the most physical of brands of basketball in the NBA, long instilled by Jerry Sloan (and disciple Tyrone Corbin, the current coach), and L.A. got frustrated enough to warrant an emphatic Gasol fist pump after a tough and-1 through traffic that tied the game.

2:05 Did we mention that L.A. was turning the ball over more often than Mike Brown switches up the color schemes of his sweater vests? The 22nd of the game was Kobe’s seventh in likely his worst game of the season (2-for-13 field goals), and allowed Utah to keep a 69-65 lead, still with plenty of basketball to be played.

0:00 With all that in mind, Utah took a 75-69 lead out of the third quarter, the turnovers reaching 24 (three away from a season high) on Gasol’s fifth, matching his front court partner Bynum. The Sessions/Bynum-led second unit was very strong to start the second quarter, which L.A. would now need to see repeated to start the fourth.

FOURTH QUARTER
9:30 Indeed, Sessions was terrific to start the fourth, leading the Lakers quickly back to a 78-all tie with his speed, flying down the wing in transition to draw free throws nine and ten of the night, while setting up both Bynum (25 points) and Barnes (8) for buckets, his fifth and sixth assists.

7:02 After that 78-all tie, Utah reeled off a quick 11-1 run, opening a game-high 10-point lead at a bad time for the Lakers, just seven minutes to erase and overtake. Bryant and Gasol returned when the lead was at six, but Kobe’s 12th missed shot of the night – he’d been pushing it more so than shooting it – resulted in a Jazz layup at the other end.

2:20 L.A. cut the lead to five on a Gasol runner, as Kobe’s 2-for-18 was by far his worst shooting night of the season (at 11.1 percent, his previous low was a 21.4 percent on 6-for-28 at Denver [Jan. 1]), plus nine missed foul shots and the 24 turnovers in the first three quarters.

0:00 Four straight free throws (Bynum, Barnes) and consecutive stops allowed L.A. a chance to tie on a Kobe three with two seconds left, but he missed, falling to 3-for-20 on the evening, showing the frustration on his face as the Lakers lost for just the third time all season at home, the first since Jan. 22 and the first against a Western Conference opponent. Up next: a back-to-back at Houston and Dallas on Tuesday and Wednesday. See you there.