The Los Angeles Lakers entered tonight’s game with the Utah Jazz on a tear. The Lakers have been the hottest team in the NBA since the All-Star break, and last night’s convincing win over the Dallas Mavericks proved that they weren’t ready to come back down to Earth quite yet. However, the win came at a price as Matt Barnes was suspended a game for his role in an altercation during the game. Barnes served his suspension tonight, and the Lakers had to play without their toughest player off the bench.
The game began with a Kobe Bryant three-pointer that was nothing but net. It appeared that the Lakers may be on their way to another evening of auto-pilot but the Jazz weren’t about to hand them the victory. Despite being a very different team than the Lakers are accustomed to seeing when they play Utah, this Jazz squad gave the Lakers plenty of trouble early in the first quarter.
It was obvious that the Lakers had played last night as the first quarter progressed. Utah jumped out to a 26-13 lead with two minutes left in the quarter. The main reason for the large deficit was a lack of effort from the Lakers. Utah out-hustled, out-muscled, and out-played Los Angeles in the first quarter and the lead reflected as much. After twelve minutes of play the Jazz led the Lakers 28-22.
After crawling back within six to end the first the Lakers dug themselves back into a deep hole to begin the second. Utah hit several outside jumpers to increase their lead back to 17. The Jazz were beating the Lakers to every ball and seemed to have a never-ending barrel of energy. Led by Al Jefferson the Jazz were beating the Lakers in the paint, but were also outscoring Los Angeles from the outside as well.
However, just like the first quarter the Lakers made a run at the end of the second. Despite trailing by 17 at one point in the quarter, Los Angeles was able to once again cut the lead to single digits by the time the quarter ended. Led by Kobe Bryant the Lakers went on an 8-0 run and ended the quarter within striking distance. After being down big early and often, entering the half the Lakers trailed Utah 48-42.
Unlike the first two quarters the third quarter began with both teams playing efficiently. The Lakers and Jazz hovered within five points of one another. The Lakers tried to finally overtake Utah but had trouble doing so. However, halfway through the quarter the Lakers finally broke through. After several baskets from Kobe Bryant the Lakers had a Derek Fisher three-pointer to tie the game.
Utah and Los Angeles fought for several more possessions before the Lakers were finally able to take the lead on a goal-tending call that allowed a Shannon Brown lay-up to count as two points for the Lakers. Once they took the lead they began to build on it, and it culminated with a long three-point shot from Lamar Odom at the end of the quarter. After trailing for nearly the entire game the Lakers led at the end of the third 71-64.
Once the Lakers claimed the lead in the third they refused to give it back. Odom continued his hot shooting from a night ago as he hit multiple three-point baskets to help the Lakers lead rapidly balloon. The lack of premium talent on the Utah roster finally caught up to them as the Lakers fully hit their stride. After trailing by as much as 17 in the first half the Lakers pushed their lead to 18 midway through the final quarter.
As Utah attempted to make a final run to get back into the game Phil Jackson sent his starters back in to secure the victory. Several clutch jump shots from Ron Artest and a contested three from Kobe Bryant all but clinched victory for the Lakers. Their biggest lead of the night was 18, completing a 35 point swing from earlier in the game. As time finally expired in Utah the Lakers had improved their post All-Star break record to 17-1 with a 96-85 victory.