The Lakers were back in action tonight against the Utah Jazz looking to rebound from Sunday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets. The loss to Denver was just the second loss since the All-Star break for the Lakers, who had been red hot since the break. Los Angeles was playing Utah for the second time in less than a week. Last Friday the Lakers beat the Jazz in Salt Lake City 96-85 after trailing by as much as 17 in the third quarter.
Los Angeles was looking to maintain their position in the second slot in the Western Conference tonight against the Jazz, who had already been eliminated from post-season contention. The Lakers and Jazz are teams that are very familiar with one another, but both teams were looking to bring home a victory tonight in Los Angeles.
After being listed as day to day with a knee injury Pau Gasol was a game time decision tonight against Utah. Luckily for the Lakers he decided to suit up and take the court. In the first quarter Gasol was the key offensive weapon for the Lakers. The Lakers looked much more efficient this time around than they did in the first half of the game last Friday. However, one of their main problems from Sunday was turnovers, and that continued to plague them in the first quarter of this game.
The Jazz made life miserable for the Lakers in the first quarter, and sloppy play wasn’t helping the Los Angeles cause. By the time the quarter ended the Lakers were nursing a small lead over the Jazz, 24-20.
The second quarter featured more ugly basketball from both squads. The offensive production for Los Angeles continued to come from Pau Gasol, who finished the half leading all scorers with 14 points. The next highest scorer for the Lakers was Kobe Bryant, who had only six points at the half. Utah managed to strangle the Lakers defensively, and Los Angeles couldn’t seem to shake the Jazz.
Despite the limited offensive production from the Lakers, Utah was never able to overcome them on the scoreboard. Los Angeles nursed a small lead for the majority of the quarter, and went into halftime leading the Jazz 40-34.[phpbay]Lakers Swingman Jersey, 3, “”[/phpbay]
Utah opened the third strong with some contributions from Paul Millsap. To make matters worse for Los Angeles they were getting little offensive production and were forcing bad shots. Frustration began to set in for Bryant especially, and he became visibly upset after multiple plays. Utah’s swarming defense managed to keep Kobe frustrated for the majority of the quarter.
One bring spot for the Lakers through the third quarter was the play of Andrew Bynum. The recent success of Bynum has been no secret, and he took it to another level against the Jazz. With less than five minutes left in the third Bynum pulled down his 19th rebound of the game, establishing a new career high for the young center. Unfortunately, Bynum and the rest of the Lakers were not nearly as productive on the offensive end. At the end of the third the Lakers and Jazz were tied at 57.
After three quarters of ugly basketball it was no surprise that the fourth followed the same script. Phil Jackson subbed Luke Walton into the game looking to generate some ball movement, but Walton struggled and made the offense even more stagnant. Luckily for the Lakers the Jazz offense was just as tepid. Utah was able to grab their first lead of the quarter halfway through the fourth on a Gordan Hayward three point basket. The Lakers looked like a team that was going through the motions, and Utah was finally able to capitalize.
The last few minutes of the game featured back and forth play from both squads. Neither team could get a sizable lead or coast to the finish line. The Lakers used their size advantage to attack the Utah frontcourt, but had no answer for an unlikely source of offense in Hayward. The first year guard out of Butler kept the Jazz in the game, and put an exclamation point on his night with a thunderous jam late in the fourth. Hayward established a new career high in points scored in the game, and was key for Utah down the stretch.
After Bryant tied the game with a deep three point shot the Jazz took the lead by one with just seconds remaining on a Gordan Hayward free throw. The Lakers had the ball with just six seconds remaining, and were looking to win the game on one last shot. Unfortunately for Los Angeles they were unable to even get a shot off, as Bryant lost the ball as time expired. The Lakers lost to Utah 86-85 in a very poor showing from the two time defending champions.