Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images
This game began exactly as you’d imagine Phil drew it up. Kobe was an early facilitator, Pau and Odom had things going early and Ron Artest was [some what] involved with the offense. They were playing great team defense, and getting easy buckets on the offensive end. At the end of the first quarter, the Lakers were up 33-17 and had an offensive efficiency rating of over 157, which is ridiculous. However, it seems as if the Jazz had the Lakers right where they wanted them.
November 6th – Utah trails the Los Angeles Clippers by 18 only to come back with a 109-107 victory in overtime.
November 9th – The Miami take a 22-point lead over the Utah Jazz only to lose 116-114 in overtime.
November 10th – Just one night after completing a 22-point comeback, the Utah Jazz overcome an 18-point deficit against the Orlando Magic to win 104-94.
November 12th – (From the Associated Press): “Paul Millsap hit a corner jumper with 1:20 to play and the Jazz came back from a double-digit, second-half deficit for the fourth consecutive game to beat the Atlanta Hawks 90-86 on Friday night.”
November 13th – The Utah Jazz trailed by 16 at halftime only to have Deron Williams knock down a floater with 0.8 seconds left on the clock to give them a 96-95 win over the Bobcats.
November 20th – The Utah Jazz trailed by as many as 11 and trailed for the majority of the game before a huge 4th quarter gave the Jazz a 103-94 victory over the Portland Trailblazers.
Notice a trend? There were six separate occasions this season where the Jazz were forced to come back from double-digit deficits to come back and win a game. Tonight was their seventh. There are no surprises on how they won the game. Some missed shots by the second unit started shifting the momentum, they ratcheted up their defense and Deron Williams was, well, Deron Williams.
The Utah point guard finished the night with 29 points on only 14 shot attempts, 12 assists and two steals. Williams was 3-6 from behind the arch, including an absolute dagger to re-tie the game after Kobe seemingly collected every ounce of momentum Utah owned with his three-point barrage. Williams stole a Kobe pass one possession later, got the ball out to Raja Bell for his 12th assist and the Lakers never led again. Looking at the box score, however, you notice that Williams finished the game with a +/- of only 3, telling us that there is more to this story than just his brilliance.
The other part of this story is something that we’re not used to this season — the Lakers bench being outplayed. Last season, the Lakers’ starters came off of the floor expecting a portion, if not all of their lead to be gone by the time they saw the floor again. This season, Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake have not only sustained leads, but even extended a lot of them with their shooting. Tonight, that was not the case as the Jazz cut into the Lakers lead with the reserves on the floor, and rode that momentum until the final buzzer sounded. The Brown-Barnes-Blake trio finished the night just 5-21 and a lowly(er) 1 for 7 from behind the arch. The Lakers are leading the league in three-point percentage, but tonight, they shot poorly and suffered the consequence. When the three point shots started turning into defensive rebounds, things only got harder for Odom and Gasol in the middle, and the Lakers offensive efficiency nose dove off of the Rocky Mountains.
This isn’t the worst loss that we’ve seen from this team, and there really isn’t anything to be worried about. This loss is can be chalked up to a bad shooting night from the bench and one of the league’s premier point guards doing what premier point guards do. Kobe, Lamar and Pau all had good games, although Lamar and Pau didn’t do the greatest job on the glass in the second half, the Lakers just couldn’t knock down the shots that they’ve been hitting all season. To sum up the night, commenter Matt R. wrote:
Steve Blake 0-7 (-9)?Derek Fisher 1-7?Shannon Brown 2-8 (-6)
Matt Barnes shot well but was -10 for the game.
Our starters were OK. A collective +3, but our bench was a collective -33.
That’s why the bench is the bench. The bench wins the game for us in LA and hangs a massive albatross on us on the road.
These games are going to happen. The bench can’t be perfect all the time or they’d be starters making $30M a year. To be honest, without the free throw advantage (31 attempts for us vs. 17 for them) we could have lost by a much larger margin.
I’ll take a close loss on the road to a team that frankly is hard to beat in their own house in the regular season. I’d prefer the win, but let’s chalk it up to some bad shooting and bench jitters and move on.
The Lakers are now 13-3 without their starting center and will have the Pacers at home on Sunday night.