Lakers Tune Up On the Jazz
Leading coast-to-coast, the Los Angeles Lakers made quick work out of the Utah Jazz winning 96-81 at Energy Solutions Center. Kobe Bryant, resting for his third consecutive game along with center Andrew Bynum, who was missing his second game with a hip pointer, were not needed tonight as the Lakers utilized excellent play from Lamar Odom (25 points on 7-9, 11-12 free throws, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocked shots, 1 assist) and Pau Gasol (22 points, 19 rebounds, 5 blocked shots, 4 assists, 1 steal) to power them to the rare road win in Utah. Jordan Farmar (18 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound) and the suddenly resurgent Bench Mob outplayed their Jazz counterparts, outhustling them and providing the necessary spark at every opportunity.
Sasha Vujacic (3 points, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds) played an inspiring first half when he helped propel the Lakers to their 56-41 halftime lead. Utah could never get untracked, and they didn’t help matters with their poor free throw shooting. Deron Williams (11 points on 3-9, 10 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 steals) and Carlos Boozer (11 points on 4-13, 10 rebounds) could not keep pace with the re-energized Lakers. The Lakers limited the Jazz to only 16 points in the third period to go up by 19-points, 76-57.
The Lakers started shaky to open the 4th quarter and coughed up the ball on four consecutive possessions. Phil Jackson immediately called time-out to settle the troops as Utah managed to chip into the lead, 77-61. Utah continued forcing the Lakers into turnovers as they methodically got themselves back into the game. Farmar’s three-pointer momentarily halted the onslaught at 82-67, but the Jazz kept fighting back as Williams found open teammates for uncontested shots. Andrei Kirilenko (17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, 2 assists, 2 steals) and Wesley Matthews off the bench (13 points, 3 steals) carried much of the Jazz attack.
But in the end, it was too much Gasol and Odom as the pair exploited Utah’s weak interior defense. And on the other end, the Lakers intimidated the Jazz into careless turnovers of their own with their length and sheer hustle. Farmar, no longer bothered by bigger, bulkier point guards, seems to have finally realized that he can punish them in return with his speed and agility. The subs are finding their spots in the offense and have settled into Phil’s new rotation. And the pieces are all falling into place as the Lakers head into the weekend All-Star break at 41-13 and in sole command of their own destiny.