Despite Defeating Jazz, Lakers Still Have Plenty of Questions

It’s been a long three days for the Los Angeles Lakers.

After playing the Chicago Bulls on Sunday and the Sacramento Kings on Monday, the Lakers were back in action for their first set of back to back to back games since 1998-99. To make things more stressful for the Lakers, they had lost both their previous games and were looking to avoid their first 0-3 start since the 1978-79 season.

Unfortunately, or fortunately if you’re the Lakers, the game itself ended up being a rather anti-climactic one. After trading away Deron Williams and firing coach Jerry Sloan last season the Jazz are in a state of rebuilding. That has never been more evident than it was Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

The Lakers cruised to a 96-71 victory over the Jazz to earn their first victory on the young season. The win also snapped an eight game losing streak that included two pre-season games and the sweep the team suffered at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks in last season’s Western Conference Semi-Finals.

However, even though the team won and looked good in the process, how much can you really take away from a victory against a team that is projected to win around 15 games this season?

Not much.

While it’s obviously a good thing that the team was able to get into the win column and avoid the 0-3 start, there isn’t really much to build upon based on this performance. There were certainly bright spots along the way, but ultimately this game isn’t going to be anything more than one that the team needed to win and did.

For L.A. the biggest bright spot was the play of forward Pau Gasol. After a tough game in Sacramento the Lakers’ center Pau Gasol had his best game of the young season. Gasol scored 22 points on 6-11 shooting while pulling down nine rebounds and recording five blocked shots. He was able to overpower and out-muscle the undersized Utah frontline, as well as rookie center Enes Kanter.
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There’s no doubt that the play of Gasol will determine whether the Lakers sink or swim this season, so seeing him break out of his slump, albeit just for one game, is an encouraging sign. Still, the fact that it comes against the Jazz almost puts an asterisk next to the performance.

Another strong game was had by Metta World Peace. After a slow start in the pre-season, World Peace has come on as the anchor of the Los Angeles second unit, and has appeared to relish his role. After replacing Lamar Odom as the leader of the bench, World Peace has put together his best run of games since first joining the Lakers two seasons ago. New head coach Mike Brown’s offense had a strong impact on World Peace, who is getting more and more touches in the paint. More importantly, he is rewarding Brown’s trust by connecting on those opportunities. World Peace scored a very efficient 14 points off the bench on 5-9 shooting, including a rather surprising dunk that brought the crowd at Staples Center to their feet.

But, the Lakers once again were led in scoring by Kobe Bryant. While Bryant nearly always leads his team in scoring, it’s becoming more and more lopsided. Bryant dropped 26 points on Utah, but needed 31 minutes on the floor to do it.

So, what do we take from the win over the Jazz? Not too much. But a win is still a win, and on Tuesday night that’s exactly what the Lakers needed.

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