Lakers/Jazz: Second Half Surge Too Much For Utah

Darius Soriano —  April 2, 2011

A mark of a championship team is winning when you don’t play your best. Another is being able to play well enough in spurts to keep a game close and then turning it on at an opportune time to bring home a win. Against the Jazz, the Lakers showed both qualities in spades to earn the victory 96-85, keeping their winning streak and momentum going in the process.

This game started out looking nothing like a win was on the way, though. In fact, it started quite ugly for the Lakers as the Jazz used excellent energy to jump out to an early, substantial lead. The Lakers looked like a team that had played the night before as tired legs and a lack of focus on doing the little things (a real symptom of fatigue) plagued their play and the Jazz took every opportunity to exploit that. Utah pushed the ball in the open court, attacked the offensive glass hard, and moved well off the ball in their flex sets to get very makable shots. Before you knew it, the Lakers found themselves down by double digits and the Jazz looked to be in control.

This pattern repeated itself at the beginning of both the 1st and 2nd quarters, but at the end of each of those periods the Lakers also made pushes of their own to ensure that the Jazz wouldn’t run away and hide to the point that the game could not be won. The key stretch was the end of the 2nd quarter where in the last 2:46 of the period the Lakers went on a 10-0 run to trim the Jazz lead to six. The fact that the Lakers could go into the 2nd half only trailing by that margin was a win in and of itself because it allowed them to start the 2nd half fresh and with a puncher’s chance to win the game.

And punch away the Lakers did.

In the 2nd half the Lakers took firm control of the contest clamping down on defense while recommitting offensively to exploit where the Jazz were weak. By attacking inside on offense and closing down the lane and forcing the Jazz to shoot jumpers on defense, the Lakers went back to the winning formula that they’ve used since coming out of the all-star break. Suddenly, the Jazz were no longer able to grab every offensive rebound off their misses. Nor were they able to simply throw a direct entry into the high post and run their offense to get shots close to the rim. The Lakers also shut down penetration so that the lay-ins the Jazz were getting both out of their base sets and in the open court essentially disappeared. What was left was a team that was relying on jumpers and while some dropped, not enough did.

Meanwhile the Lakers went back to their bread and butter of moving the ball on to the open player so that the best shot would get taken. Kobe was especially good at making the right read either by looking for his own shot or dutifully passing the ball to one of his mates that was more open. And after Kobe had helped lead the early push in the 3rd quarter that tied the game (he ended up hitting Fisher in the corner for the three that did the deed), the bench came in and took hold of the contest. A Shannon Brown lay in put the Lakers up by two. A Steve Blake steal and coast to coast finish pushed the lead to four. And just like the night before, a Lamar Odom three-pointer on LA’s last 3rd quarter possession pushed the lead to seven. And away they went.

The 4th proved to be more of the same as the Lakers D held strong and their O only opened up the game further. If you read the play by play, you’d see the following possessions from the start of the period up until the 8:52 mark: Shannon lay in, Lamar 3-pointer, Bynum lay-in + the foul (w/ converted FT), CJ Miles FT, Shannon alley oop, Steve Blake jumper (this was a great PUJIT after Blake got the ball in the open court off an outlet pass and went behind his back all in one motion before breaking out to shoot his J).

Blake’s last jumper pushed LA’s lead to 18 and that was that. The Jazz would make one more minor push to cut the lead to 12, but Phil then responded by putting the starters back in and they closed the game out from there. The key numbers from that dominant 2nd half were the Lakers holding the Jazz to 37 points while scoring 54 of their own and a nearly complete flipping of the efficiency marks for both sides where by the end of the game the Lakers posted an offensive rating of 111.6 while holding the Jazz to a mark of 98.8. In the 4th quarter the Lakers only had one turnover, essentially punishing the Jazz with fantastic offensive execution while clamping down on D and doing so without fouling. (As an aside, one of the main reasons the Lakers were even close in this game early was because the Jazz couldn’t stop fouling the Lakers. LA lived at the FT line early on and their ability to get free points while the rest of their offense struggled was huge. One thing that didn’t leave the Jazz with Sloan’s retirement is Utah’s penchant for fouling as the final FT numbers reflect: Lakers 30 FTA, Jazz 18 FTA).

In the end, this game wasn’t really pretty and it took a while for the Lakers to find their legs and to dial in on both sides of the ball, but when they did it was great to see. Individually, the players took accountability to play better and then collectively, as a team, they spurred each other on and made the little plays that they weren’t making early on. Every player that saw time contributed in some way, but it wasn’t just the stats.  It was the cheering on of each other and all the plays that were made to help each other succeed. I know it’s easy to look at the Lakers as this top-heavy collection of talent, but more and more they’re playing as a great team. And when this much talent can actually play greater than the sum of its parts, the opponent is in trouble. That’s how you put together streaks like the one the Lakers are on and why I’m confident it can continue.

Darius Soriano

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33 responses to Lakers/Jazz: Second Half Surge Too Much For Utah

  1. Another huge change in the game is when Phil placed Bynum on Jefferson because Pau was unable to contain him. As soon as the switch occurred Jefferson began shooting hooks and jumpers instead of him getting to the rim on post moves like he had in the first half. This simple little change affected the rest of Jefferson’s night. He lost his effectiveness and the Jazz as a team followed right behind him.

  2. #1. It’s interesting you mention that, because on twitter I mentioned that I’d like to see that switch and literally two possessions later it happened. And you’re dead on, that switched completely changed the types of shots that Jefferson was getting.

  3. I’m not sure what anyone else thinks, but that sh** Fesenko pulled never gets called when it’s against the Lakers, much like Terry last night. It disgusts me that the scrubs of the league like Fesenko can just try to hurt star players and get away with it. There’s playing hard, then there is cheap cowardly tactics, which is what occurred tonight.

  4. I didn’t catch much of the first half but from what I saw and read, that’s probably for the best. This team is seriously impressing me these days because they are finally getting to about the point that we’ve known all along that they can get to. Sometimes during the early, listless months it can sometimes be hard to have faith (the December game against Milwaukee and the January loss to the Cavs come to mind).

    But streaks like this make it all worthwhile when everyone on the team makes contributions that lead to the type of team success that we’ve been fortunate enough to see since the Allstar Break. I know it’s already been talked about plenty but the recent increased toughness, resiliency, and focus of Bynum has taken this team into a whole different gear. When he buckles down and focuses on both ends of the court, we are a TOUGH team to beat.

    Can’t wait for the playoffs this year, good wrap-up with a great ending Darius. Go Lakers!

  5. My sincere apology to ever think that trading Bynum for Melo is better for the lakers. Phil Jackson must have somehow re-wired his brain. Bynum’s commitment to defense and rebounding is incredible.
    If Lakers were to meet Celtics again in the finals, and Bynum plays like he is playing now. I strongly suggest Danny Ainge hires a crew of bodyguards just for walking around in Boston.
    Go Lakers!!!

  6. Kudos to the Lakers point guards. Fish & Blake have caught a lot of heat this season (most justified). Last night Fish had 15 pts/ 3 rebs/ 3 asst in 30 mins, & Blake had 4/4/4 in 18 mins. Each shot 66% from the field while combining for +11 while on the court. Off the top of my head, I don’t recall our point guards combining for a better game this season. L. A. all the way Baby.

  7. Hey guys, I was at the game last night. It was a blast. Did anyone here any lakers chants from watching it at home?? It seemed pretty loud a couple times I was wondering if people could here it on espn. there were a lot of lakers fans there (mostly in the upper bowl). We even chanted MVP when Kobe was at the line

  8. The ESPN commentators were saying there was an uncommonly large Laker cheering section.

  9. I don’t think Lakers win this game earlier in the year. They wouldn’t have been able to fight through the fatigue to keep it close. Lots of credit needs to be given to Fish for keeping them close. i thought he made several plays in the first half right when Utah could have pushed the lead even further.

    In the first half I kept thinking this was the kind of game where Barnes’ absence really hurt. His activity on the boards would have made a difference. Luckily it turned out okay.

    Still steamed that Terry didn’t get a suspension and had his flagrant downgraded. I’m completely okay with Barnes’ suspension but thought Terry deserved one game also. Don’t know how true it is but I heard on the pre-game radio show that Cuban was asking Barnes to be suspended for 5 games. I don’t hate Cuban like a lot of fans do but if true, that 5 game request was complete ridiculous for no punches thrown and a Dallas player instigating in the first place and Dallas coach holding on to Barnes when he was already attempting to walk away.

  10. @5 J yeah you guys were loud. I even thought that it was a home game coz of the loud cheers from laker fans. Who would have ever imagined that the 9 game lead of the Spurs over the lakers would shrink to 1.5 and we can possibly take over the no. 1 seed. I hope the lakers catch the Spurs at no. 1 as I see NOH drop to the 8th seed.

  11. Is it just me or was that win even more satisfying than the victory over Dallas?

    Good recap here. My memory of that 10-0 run to end the first half may be a little hazy, but D Fish deserves special mention for keying it, no? In any case, it was definitely the pivot point toward the W.

  12. I didn’t get to see the game, but from the recaps, this was a gutty win. the Lakers were tired and all, but still gutted it out. But only a day off, then going to Denver, I feel they will be even more tired and weary in that game. Could it be that the Spurs are tanking a bit so the Lakers change their gameplan of cruising, and put extra effort for that #1 seed and eventually tiring out a bit coming into the playoffs? #1 seed or not, they still need to win as much as they can so that they have HCA against the teams from the east. I’m just a bit worried they might push themselves too hard for that all important HCA. But I love the way the Lakers are playing right now. Just love the attitude, the effort, the execution. If they had just won 3-4 games more during the first half of the season, then they’d be on cruise control at this stage

  13. 12,
    If the Lakers go to Denver it would be to fly back with them and drop the Nuggets off at their homes to make sure they get there safely after the game at Staples.

  14. Extra effort during the season doesn’t carry over into the playoffs because of the timing of the games. With days off between games and not too much time before the 1st game – good vibes don’t get blunted – the players are able to stay in rhythm, which, IMO, is worth more than extended rest.

  15. #12/kswagger:

    if phil rides kobe and pau hard for 42+ minutes a night, then whether the toll on their bodies is worth a #1 seed is debatable. that isn’t even an issue right now, because the minutes they are playing aren’t excessive.

    i don’t believe the spurs are tanking. last night Tim, Tony, and Manu played more minutes than usual in regulation–then they played 5 minutes more in overtime. if the spurs were tanking, their best players would be playing fewer minutes.

    one thing i liked about the lakers last night was a demonstration of defensive flexibility. the started to defend screen-roll with pau showing hard, which is the intelligent thing to do because earl watson isn’t some double-team splitting dynamo.

  16. “I don’t hate Cuban like a lot of fans do …” Chownoir, please give it a try. It’s not that hard.

    Actually hate isn’t quite the word. Contempt, that’s more like it!

  17. I think I had mentioned during the game that the Lakers didn’t get to their rooms the night before until 2:30 or 3:00 AM, but I saw an article that said it wasn’t until 3:30, and there was no morning shootaround. All I can say is that this victory took some intestinal fortitude, and the rest of the league is in trouble.

  18. Cuban does a lot of good things outside of the NBA. He can be an irrational homer at times, but that’s kind of OK by me considering his utter dedication to his team.

    Re: Spurs. I’m starting to suspect some kind of strategy behind their play of late. Whether it’s resting starters, or strategically tanking to get better playoff positioning, I think Pop is a very smart coach who would implement his out-of-the-box-thinking if he thought it would help his team’s chances in the postseason. Aside from us, only Spurs and the jackasses in green truly don’t need home court advantage in the playoffs.

  19. The guy on camera at the end of this video better not be our coach next season:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaONY5J6fps

  20. I couldn’t agree more. An emotional win the night before and the playing on the road on the back end of a back to back in the high altitude of Utah. Being down by 17 points and then 15 min later being up 18? One of the more impressive wins of the Kobe era.

  21. I love this team right now

  22. #7 there was a point in the second half when ESPN’s commentator audio feed was cut off and all we could hear was the game action and fans (wish we could opt in for full broadcasts like that!) but during that time I heard a definite Lakers chant. Can’t remember exactly what it was, but something like “Let’s go Lakers”.

    Nice work!

  23. Talk about a tale of two halfs. Wow. But it was worth staying up here in the MST to see our defense clam down. Pau seemed a bit week in his possessions last night, with Jazz players wrestling the ball away from him a few times. Still, overall, his game was effective. Steve Blake is playing and shooting much more consistently lately — becoming a more reliable back-up. How many times has Fish hit a 3-pointer to give us a lead in games, including the playoffs. The guy has his distractors but plays with tons of heart and toughness. One of my all time favorites of the Lake Show.

  24. #6 – totally agree, Fish is finally finding his shot again and Blake has become a lot more aggressive.
    #7 – the Lakers fans in the crowd were very evident and could clearly be heard. It was definitely a part of things.

    The last stretch in the 2nd reminded me of older kids coming onto a playground and kicking the younger ones off. Have to say though, the Jazz surprised me – especially Fesenko who should be earning some more minutes off his play – very big kid and he likes to enforce the paint.

    Not pretty but a tasty win nonetheless.

  25. I did not like the play of the russian frenseko, especially against kobe, where it did look like he was trying to hurt him, the one knee shot looked intentional, and the bush league tossing the ball at kobe when he was on the floor… did you see the look kobe gave him when walking back to the line? daggers.
    well, they stayed professional and did not retailiate, good for our team.
    I think we’re living what might come down as an historic run to the title, folks, enjoy the ride!
    sometimes when you’re living it, and enjoying it, it’s hard to realize this might be one of the greatest runs in a very long time.
    just enjoy

  26. My only fear is that we burn ourselves out or worse someone gets hurt. The way they battered Kobe last night just shows what can happen. He looks like he needs a couple games off. The same can be said for Lamar. I know his stomach was upset last night, but he still looked tired. Even Pau and the weak way he played defense and half-heartedly grabbed for rebounds were areas of concern for me.

    I hope that once we secure the 2nd seed, and at least the 2nd seed against the East, we shut it down for those three and play Drew only 20 minutes a game. He and Barnes are the only ones who need the reps for rehab. Shannon needs the time to drill his responsibilities into his head more than Kobe needs to add to his career numbers.

  27. Kobe is not a fighter so his revenge will not be a cheap foul. But bet dollars to doughnuts he is going to bang on Frenseko Tuesday. They’ll draw up a play where the big Russian is alone on an island and he will get posterized. Mark my words!!!

    Don’t funk with the Mamba!!!

    Talk about desperate!!!

    The HEAT are going to sign Eddie Curry!!!

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=AhPLNJAEpdQR56lJ9qrBs7C8vLYF?slug=aw-wojnarowski_heat_consider_signing_Eddy_Curry_040211

    Boston truly screwed themselves by trading Perkins. They are toilet paper soft in the middle.

  28. Another great article.

    Bryant, Nowitzki remain connected.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/columns/story?id=6275717

  29. Thanks Jeff!

    And 8 jeff I believe I was one section over from that section cuz that’s where the “let’s go lakers” chats got started. That section was all yellow for lakers jerseys, it had to be 90% lakers. And there was a huge guy standing up that would start the chants. I’ve been to a bunch of lakers game in Utah (since if been going to school here the last 3 years) but there has never been a game with this many lakers fans. I guess that’s what happens when the lakers are rolling and the jazz suck

  30. I ment comment 8, Craig

  31. 25.

    His name is Fesenko, and he’s Ukrainian, not Russian.