Lakers/Jazz: First of Many Wins

J.M. Poulard —  December 27, 2011

The Los Angeles Lakers just completed a fairly challenging portion of their schedule, playing three games in three nights. Although two of the three contests were held at home, it was still difficult for the team to navigate through it given the lack of practice time. Indeed, the players are still getting accustomed to playing with one another and have to do so all the while facing the rigors of the condensed schedule.

With that said, Mike Brown earned his first victory as the Lakers head coach on Tuesday night against the Utah Jazz. The Lakers still have some areas to improve on, but getting the first win out of the way certainly removes the added pressure of figuring things out while being winless.

A few observations from the game:

  • Apparently the Utah Jazz were the younger, quicker and more athletic team coming into the match-up against the Lakers; but they could have fooled us. The Lakers played with a lot more energy, getting the deflections as well as the loose balls and ran down the court for 16 fast break points.
  • The Utah Jazz have historically been a team with a high foul rate; as a result the Lakers made a conscious effort to feed MWP, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant on the block in an attempt to generate fouls. Also, simply running the court allowed the Lakers to get out ahead of the Jazz players who had to foul in order to limit the Lakers’ easy scoring opportunities.
  • With this being the third consecutive game in as many nights, Mike Brown gave Jason Kapono the nod as Kobe’s back up; playing him 17 minutes. Brown hasn’t quite settled on a rotation yet, as Matt Barnes (who played in Sacramento) failed to see any court time.
  • For the second game in a row, Metta World Peace was productive on offense. He drove to the basket for a dunk, posted up on the block and was able to get himself to the free throw line.
  • The Jazz’s inability to play defense without fouling essentially allowed Kobe Bryant to do less for a change. Indeed, Bryant’s scoring was still needed, but his playmaking abilities weren’t needed as much as in the previous contests.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers surrendered a mere 36 points in the paint thanks in large part to their activity, length and athleticism. The Jazz had trouble finishing at the rim against the likes of Gasol, McRoberts and Murphy (seven blocks between them).
  • Troy Murphy went scoreless against the Jazz in 31 minutes, but his contributions helped the Lakers get the win. The left-handed big man snatched 11 rebounds and dished out four assists.
  • Kobe had a few instances in which he hijacked the offense in the fourth quarter, but he got himself into great scoring position (pinch post, low post and at the wings) and delivered. He scored with his left hand off a spin move, converted a transition 3-pointer and got himself to the free throw line in a three-minute sequence.
  • Despite the fact that the Lakers were blowing out the Jazz late in the fourth quarter, Brown kept Gasol and Bryant in the game for the sake of getting an opportunity to run the offense. The strategy helped the team produce manufacture high percentage shots; but more importantly it may have done something for Pau Gasol’s confidence, whom attacked Enes Kanter in the post on multiple occasions instead of settling for fall-away jump shots.
  • The stat of night may be Pau Gasol’s 12 free throw attempts. A more aggressive Gasol equates to a far more productive Lakers offense.

Perhaps giving some of the young guys on the team some burn early in the fourth quarter could have been a huge benefit to the team, but instead Mike Brown chose to stick with his veterans for the most part. The decision meant that the rotation players got some playing time against Utah’s second unit and the Lakers certainly looked more confident and more in charge during that stretch. The strategy may just help the Lakers be a bit sharper in their execution against the New York Knicks on Thursday.

J.M. Poulard