From Kevin Ding, OC Register: If the guys in green remain the greatest threat, the Lakers are peaking at the right time before the big test from the Boston Celtics again. With a 120-91 destruction of the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, the Lakers have won 10 of their past 12 games. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said before the game that the team had been playing better in recent weeks, and the Lakers played flat-out great with a season-high 34 assists and a 38-point lead at one point. After another tuneup against cellar-dwelling Sacramento on Friday, the Lakers play host to the Celtics on Sunday at Staples Center, their first meeting since the Lakers’ 2010 NBA Finals victory.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: After their team’s 120-91 victory Tuesday over the Utah Jazz, the Lakers’ locker room, crowded with players and reporters alike, showed signs that the team is suddenly gelling. Forwards Ron Artest, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter laughed out loud amid conversation about the win. Guard Kobe Bryant jokingly chided reporters for asking a “million questions” before agreeing to talk further, something that’d never happen after a rough stretch. And forward Lamar Odom openly wondered how often his successful floater before running out of bounds will be replayed on ESPN’s SportsCenter (“It’s up there.”) The Lakers’ willingness to stay for a prolonged time to speak with the media, Bryant’s teasing of Shannon Brown for bricking a fast-break dunk (“I found it funny”) and Coach Phil Jackson granting the team the day off Wednesday were all reactions to what transpired on the floor.
From Mark Heisler, LA Times: Mr. Clutch comes through for the Lakers again!?? Yes, it was Jerry West, Mr. Laker, himself, pointing out the Lakers don’t defend because they can’t.?? Now that everyone is agreed on that point?? Coach Phil Jackson said, “He’s right,” adding his players actually can defend if they “do a lot of things right.” ??Right, like trying.?? Lakers players didn’t take West’s comments as a compliment, although as Kobe Bryant noted, “The intensity, we could definitely ratchet it up and we have.”
From Dave McMenamin, Land O’ Lakers: Well, Jerry West, this one was for you. The “long in the tooth” Lakers made the Jazz look like they had one foot in the grave in a dominant win against a playoff-caliber team. Playing in their first game since West’s comments degrading the Lakers’ defense surfaced , Los Angeles clamped down on Utah on the defensive end, holding the Jazz to just 32.6 percent shooting in the first half while building a 28-point lead at the break. “We’ve been pretty good defensively all year. All year,” Kobe Bryant said, repeating himself for extra emphasis. “Numbers don’t lie.”
From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Here are some talkies to complement Brian’s postgame analysis. As one would expect, a 29 point beatdown put Kobe Bryant in a very light mood. Good one-liners about Shannon Brown’s missed dunk and Lamar Odom’s circus-style and-one were offered, plus praise for the Laker defense, despite whatever opinions Jerry West may have. There was also a funny exchange between Kobe and ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande, who wondered if Andrew Bynum’s frequent time on the shelf means the Lakers are still learning what they have in Big Drew. Kobe considers the answer fairly self-evident. “We know,” insisted Kobe. “We’ve been playing with him now for years. We know exactly what he can do. It’s pretty easy for us.” Is it then the media who sometimes forgets, Adande wondered? Out of sight, out of mind, so to speak? Kobe couldn’t resist a reporter walking right into a jab served up on a silver platter.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Bad things happen to the Utah Jazz when they visit Staples Center. Like a kid getting dragged to the dentist, they know all too well that a trip to the Lakers’ home floor entails a heavy dose of pain that they’re more or less helpless to prevent. Utah hasn’t beaten the Lake Show at Staples since 2005, which is a fairly astonishing streak when you consider that (a) the Jazz are a solid team year in, year out, (b) they’ve faced the Lakers in the playoffs numerous times, so they’re getting plenty of cracks at the purple and gold, and (c) we’re now in the year 2011. Tonight the streak reached a cool 17 games, and not for a moment did a different outcome seem plausible. The Lakers scored on their very first possession and at no point thereafter was the game even tied. When it all wrapped up, the final score read 120 to 91, and the Jazz were sent back to SLC having gone 0-5 on their gruesome January road trip.
From Austin Burton, Dime Magazine: He’s the best player on the best team, which still counts for something. No, the Lakers don’t have the best record in the League, and some other teams are playing better right now — but L.A. is still the last team anybody wants to see in a seven-game series. Kobe is sixth in the NBA in scoring at 24.9 points per game, to go with 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. A few less Ron Artest bricks this season, and Kobe would be joining LeBron and Russell Westbrook as the only players in the League right now averaging at least 20 points, five boards and five assists. But Kobe is the boring pick, which sucks for him because Michael Jordan racked up five MVP’s before becoming the boring pick. Kobe only has one. But in the YouTube, monster stat line, trying-too-hard-to-be-trendy era, D-Rose, Amar’e Stoudemire, LeBron … even a dark horse from the Spurs would be more interesting. And did you ever think, in a conversation involving Spurs, Kobe would be the one labeled boring?