Coming into this game, my hope was that the Lakers would jump on the reeling Jazz from the outset and carry over their strong play from Friday’s win against the Nuggets. My thought was that even though the Jazz hadn’t had much success at Staples (losing their last 16 games when visiting the Lakers) that they wouldn’t show any quit and would want to salvage their road trip with a W against the world champs so the Lakers would need to control this game early and stay on top of Utah. Well, the Lakers did exactly what I would have hoped, posting an offensive efficiency of 160.9 in the first quarter (on their way to a 37-22 lead after 12 minutes) and never looking back on their way to a fairly easy 120-91 victory.
Really, the Lakers did nearly everything right in this game. If you were going to find one flaw in their evening it would be the 16 offensive rebounds surrendered but when forcing the opposition into 41.9% shooting and 50 misses from the field, odds are the other team is going to corral some of their own misses. But that was the only blemish in an otherwise dominant performance.
Rather than give you a blow by blow recap of how the Lakers dismantled the Jazz, here are some of the numbers and notes that caught my eye from the Lakers win:
*For the game, the Lakers posted an offensive efficiency of 131.9. To put that number in perspective, that’s 19.6 points more per 100 possessions than their average (and league leading) efficiency rating. Basically, that’s dominant offense. The Lakers big 4 offensive weapons (Kobe, Pau, Bynum, Odom) combined for 77 points, making 29 of their 41 shots from the field and 17 of their 21 FT attempts (that’s a 76.6 true shooting %). The Lakers controlled the flow of the game on offense, repeatedly working the ball inside on post ups and then rotating the ball to the open man when the Jazz defense collapsed. Kobe was especially aggressive working against Raja Bell early as he consistently used his dribble to either back him down or attack him in face up situations to get to his sweet spots and get up short jumpers. But when it wasn’t Kobe it was Gasol or Bynum or Odom doing the same. Aggressiveness ruled the night on offense for the Lakers.
*The Lakers efficiency on that side of the ball also showed in their season high 34 assists. Led by Kobe’s 6 dimes, six Lakers had at least 3 assists on the night as the Lakers picked apart the Jazz “defense” consistently. The ball moved from side to side, in and out of the post, and after a while the passing was contagious as every Lakers was looking to make the extra pass to get a teammate a better look than the one they were currently presented with. Just great teamwork on the night.
*The Lakers defense, though, was just as good as their O. I mentioned the Jazz shooting percentage but how the Lakers forced the errant shots was even more impressive than the final numbers. Nearly every Jazz field goal attempt was contested on the perimeter and especially in the paint. Andrew Bynum did tremendous work controlling the defensive interior, countless times affecting the shots of any player that came into his vicinity. On the night he had 3 blocks but he altered countless others and was a real difference maker on that end of the floor. But it wasn’t just the bigs that did work on D. The Lakers tallied 11 steals on the night as well, mostly caused by pestering ball handlers (Artest was again fantastic with quick hands against everyone he guarded) and jumping in passing lanes when that pressure led to forced passes.
*On an individual level, besides the stars stepping up I was quite impressed with a couple of bench players tonight as well. Steve Blake had a very good game tonight, giving an effort that he’s really been building towards in the past few contests. Sure his stat line of 5 points (on 2-4 shooting), 4 assists, and 3 rebounds doesn’t jump out at you but he played with great energy on both sides of the ball and seemed to make the right read on every offensive possession. He even won a jump ball against Kirilenko after making a nice defensive play to tie him up along the baseline. Luke Walton also had an excellent game, sinking all 4 of his shots from the floor for 9 points and chipping in 3 assists as well. Overall those two (only) finished +5 and +11 respectively, but considering they were big parts of ensuring that big Laker leads stayed that way I was very happy with those numbers.
Overall, this was just a great win and hopefully the Lakers can continue to play at a high level as the schedule continues to toughen up. With Boston on Sunday and the Spurs next week, the Lakers will need to bring this type of effort in order to continue to pull out wins. But for now, enjoy this one folks. It’s not too often that you witness a complete demolition of a quality team like the Jazz. (And just for fun, also enjoy the clip of Odom hitting a circus shot below. I’ve probably watched it about 20 times already.)