Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening home contest against Utah before a four-game road trip, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Duhon, Bryant, World Peace, Jamison and Howard
Jazz: M. Williams, R. Foye, M. Williams, P. Millsap, A. Jefferson
9:19 Well, the Lakers couldn’t have started much worse. The early deficit was 8-0, with Utah making 4 of 6 field goals and LAL missing all four of their shots, alongside three turnovers. Mike D’Antoni was none too pleased at the apparent lack of urgency, but his anger may have been mitigated a tiny bit as Bryant got L.A. on the board with a three-pointer.
4:32 Sparked by some bench energy from Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks, LAL pulled to within one when Chris Duhon hit a triple. He’s been L.A.’s best three point shooter on the season, hitting about 44 percent, and followed his make by feeding Hill for a layup that made it a 19-18 L.A. lead. Speaking of the Duke product, again holding the fort down while Steve Nash and Steve Blake remain out with injuries, he’d already totaled four boards and four assists at that point.
8:40 Just a few minutes into the second quarter, Utah reserve big Enes Kanter already had four field goals, all right at the rim, against Hill and Jamison. He’d hurt the Lakers in three preseason matchups, proving that not to be a fluke, giving Utah a four-point lead in this one. Jamison and Meeks had a three-pointer each on the other end to keep things close.
3:08 If the 8-0 run to start the game was bad, the 11-0 burst in the middle of the second was brutal, Utah shooting 59 percent while building a 12-point lead. Only Duhon’s second triple momentarily stopped the bleeding, but the eighth Lakers turnover moments later (15 Jazz points off) pushed the margin right back to 12 at 55-43. The offense continued to be out of sorts, relying mostly on made or missed jump shots, and even with seven three-pointers in 13 attempts, it wasn’t near enough with all the turnovers.
0:00 You could probably sum up the first half by saying Utah simply had better energy than the Lakers, on both ends, and that resulted in a 60-51 lead at the half. Hill was the one counter example, his 13 points and five boards off the bench helping keep the home team in striking distance.
9:00 So active was Hill in that first half that D’Antoni rewarded him by starting him in the third quarter, and his fifth offensive board resulted in Bryant’s 3-pointer, capping an 8-0 (five other points from World Peace) to cut Utah’s lead to just two.
3:42 L.A. kept making shots, getting the third Bryant triple and a bank shot moments later to give him 20 points, and Howard’s dunk off a Jamison lob trimmed the lead to just one … but needing a stop, the Lakers instead gave up a Randy Foye three-pointer, then 1 of 2 free throws from Mo Williams out of a fast break to keep the lead at 83-78. That also gave the Jazz a 15-2 edge in fast break points.
10:34 L.A. were staying alive almost exclusively from the 3-point line, as Bryant and Meeks hit the 13th and 14th triples in 22 attempts, good for 64 percent … yet every time L.A. made a push, the Jazz had an answer, and it was Hayward this time with a triple to push the lead back to six, then a turnover and two Jazz free throws to follow. Instead of a 3-point game, it was a 99-91 Utah lead. D’Antoni could only shake his head from the bench.
5:06 As studio analyst Kurt Rambis summarized on Time Warner Cable SportsNet’s broadcast of the game, the Jazz had simply been playing harder, and thus led 109-98 even after a Meeks’ and-1 amidst Utah’s trees. The Jazz were shooting a red-hot 58.1 percent from the field, and had made seven more free throws, as the Lakers were staring yet another early-season home loss in the face.
1:10 Trying to make one final push, the Lakers started getting stops, then converted on the other end behind 3 of 4 Bryant free throws that suddenly cut Utah’s lead to just five with 1:10 to play. The Jazz, who were at 58 percent from the field, missed eight of nine shots. And so, when Kobe rose for a triple attempt (he’d already hit four), a make would have trimmed it to two and left L.A. not needing to foul. Instead, it rimmed out, and the Lakers for some reason let 19 seconds run off the clock before Meeks mistakenly fouled Williams with 15.4 on the game clock.
The final: 117-110, Jazz, sending the Lakers to a 9-12 record, and their sixth home loss despite a relatively easy schedule. They were a full eight games back in the loss column to the West’s best records, including SAS at 17-4 and OKC at 16-4, digging a huge hole out of which they’ll be fighting for the rest of the season. Up next is a 4-game road trip (at CLE, NYK, WAS and PHI), starting on Tuesday night. We’ll see you there.