Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening road contest at Utah with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Blake, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Jazz: Mo Williams, G. Hayward, Marvin Williams, P. Millsap, A. Jefferson
6:25 A slow start from the Lakers in a place they know demands their best effort turned expectedly into a 9-2 Jazz lead, but Metta World Peace scored six straight points and Dwight Howard followed with two free throws and his second dunk to make it 17-12 for the home team. L.A. was sluggish, having not played since Sunday, a fact they’d need to flip.
0:00 Mike Brown is still tinkering with minutes for the second unit, in this case taking World Peace and Howard out early in favor of Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill, in part so he can start MWP in the second quarter for his offense as Kobe rests. Darius Morris and Antawn Jamison soon joined their fellow subs and Gasol for the final two minutes, and allowed a 6-0 Jazz run that left a 25-17 deficit heading into the second. Little cohesion from that group didn’t help.
9:11 With a crew of Morris-Ebanks-MWP-Jamison-Howard on the floor, struggles continued as the Jazz built a 35-21 advantage. Howard had a poor series after getting frustrated with a no call. First, Kanter dunked on the other end as Howard complained, then Howard turned it over trying to take it to Kanter and Randy Foye hit a triple on the other end. Time out, Lakers.
2:29 Bryant showed L.A. the benefit of having a superstar on offense, accounting for seven straight points with a driving layup around Millsap in a crossmatch, a dish to Blake for a wide-open three after the double came, then two free throws after getting Foye up in the air. That cut the lead in half from 16 earlier in the period to eight at 47-39.
0:08.7 The Lakers had a chance to build some momentum, but saw World Peace force a shot and Mo Williams reach 14 points with a J on the other end, protecting a 10-point margin at the break, 51-41.
8:00 The Lakers couldn’t have started much worse on offense, with a turnover mixed into five straight misses and two foul shot misses (15 of 25 total, Howard 3 for 9), but Utah couldn’t capitalize at the other end, missing all but one of their seven attempts as the lead stayed at 10 when Bryant hit two free throws.
3:14 L.A. finally found a spark when MWP notched a transition steal, leading to Bryant’s pull-up J. Blake followed with an open three off good ball movement, and Jordan Hill cleaned up Bryant’s miss at the rim with his third offensive board (six in 14 minutes) to get to the line. The result: an 8-0 run, cutting the lead to five at 60-55. However, Utah grabbed some mojo back in the final minute as Ebanks had an unforced TO and L.A. lost Enes Kanter in transition for a dunk, making it 65-57 after three quarters.
6:21 L.A. twice cut the lead down to five, Howard converting a tough and-1 inside, and MWP hitting a triple, but Randy Foye countered with triples for Utah both times … then he added another, his fourth in the last three minutes, to push the lead right back to 11. Back-breaking triples, indeed, but it served L.A.’s defense right for leaving someone that hot to help on dribble penetration above the free throw line from Mo Williams that wasn’t necessarily going anywhere.
2:51 Despite 9 of 10 free throws from Bryant, the Lakers still trailed by nine, having trouble getting stops throughout the quarter. We know that Howard hasn’t had his full burst, and it was most noticeable on the defensive end, with Utah dominating paint points 44-30. The Lakers simply did not play well enough to win a road game, from an energy or execution standpoint. Bryant finished with 27 points on 6 of 16 shooting, doing most of his damage with 15 of 17 foul shots, but got little help from Gasol, who was just 2 of 9 for five points with seven rebounds. Howard was 7 for 11 towards his 19 points, but no other Laker shot above 50 percent.
The final: Jazz 95, Lakers 86. Next up is Golden State on Friday for a 1-4 Lakers team in dire need of a victory.