Last night’s game against the Utah Jazz was one of the most excellent and complete games I’ve seen the Lakers play all season. Yes the Jazz have now lost 16 straight at Staples Center, and yes they are in the midst of their own midseason mental collapse, but it was still a quality win against a quality opponent. The Lakers came out shooting a blistering 69% from the field, a stat which settled in the 62% range by the end of the game only because the 4th quarter became a practice session for our rookies and role players.
The very first possession of the first quarter spoke volumes about how the game was to subsequently unfold. Derek Fisher hit a triple, but only after all five Lakers on the floor touched the ball at some point during the possession. Kobe was happy to start off in the role of distributor, bouncing a pass to Lamar Odom who finished with a finger roll; he was aggressive defensively as well, grabbing a steal and finishing with an emphatic dunk on the other end.
To be honest, the first 6 or 7 minutes of the game were much closer than the final score would have you believe. It looked like it would be a game; the Jazz were hitting shots to start, and the Lakers were making a few errors trying to go inside, but not finishing.
Everything changed once L.A. went on a 15-2 surge as a direct result of the excellent defense they began to play. Ron Artest in particular played stifling D against C.J. Miles and hit a three after the ensuing timeout to show that he could get it done on the offensive end too. Ron-Ron then tapped the ball away from Deron Williams, who was uncharacteristically careless with the ball and angry for most of the night, as evidenced by his foul on Artest to make up for his mistake.
Andrew Bynum was a beast inside, using his strength to overpower his opponents and get the bucket, just before Kobe went on his little run as previously mentioned. The bench capped off what was a great start to the game, with Downtown Shannon Brown hitting a step back shot and immediately hooking up with Steve Blake for a layup on the next trip down the court. Blake had two stellar assists as soon as he checked in. The Lakers led a balanced attack all the way around.
Next: Attack of the Lakers