Mamba never said there’d be nights like this. It doesn’t seem possible for Kobe Bryant to play any worse than he did tonight during the Lakers surreal 103-99 loss to the undermanned Utah Jazz. Kobe was careless with the rock, his jump shot resembled Tim Tebow’s passing prowess and his demeanor was downright depressing.
This one was more unwatchable than a Twilight marathon without commercials or a vomit bag handy.
The Jazz were without their best player in Al Jefferson and their best perimeter defender in Raja Bell. Just to make this loss even more inexplicable, they didn’t have the services of veteran point Earl Watson either. But you’d hardly notice any of that by the way Tyrone Cobrin’s crew balled.
The Lakers’ sizable advantage in the paint should have been exploited all night long. Andrew Bynum’s amazing 33 points on 12 of 14 shooting seemed like they accomplished that goal. But when Bryant goes 3 of 20 and Pau Gasol only gets 12 shots himself you can see how this one got away from L.A.
Drew should have gone for 50 on a night like this. Mike Brown needs to learn how to stand up to Bryant when he’s playing this poorly. Then again, the only way to get out of a slump is to shoot your way out. Kobe tried and failed miserably.
Another area that gifted a W to Utah is the continuing turnover troubles. 24! Count them! A Kobe’s worth of extra possession for the Jazz. The Charlotte Bobcats can beat you when you give them that many bonus opportunities.
To be fair this loss wasn’t all on how horribly the Lakers played. Gotta give the Jazz plenty of credit.
Paul Millsap gave Gasol fits. He used his quicks and active nature to go for a team best 24. Another reason why Utah took this one with relative ease was their physical play. Rookie Enes Kanter went for 17 and 8 off the bench. He was joined by another impressive Utah youngster, Alec Burks, who also went for 17 by taking it to the hole without fear.
All in all Utah shot the lights out. Coach Brown can’t be pleased seeing his defense yield 47% shooting and giving up 58 second half points.
With regards to the new look Lakers you can tell this is still a work in progress. Steve Blake is filling the Derek Fisher role nicely. He contributed 0 points, 2 dimes and 2 turnovers in 26 minutes as a starter. Meanwhile Ramon Sessions is doing major damage in his reserve role. Sessions second outing yielded a productive 10 points and 6 dimes despite being a Mamba-esque 1 of 7 from the field.
Brown has stated that he’ll stick with Blake in the starting five but you’ve got a feeling that will change soon.
Losing at home is something that happens rarely happens for these Lakers. Tonight’s loss was only the third of the season, all of which have been by four points or less. That’s taking a glass-is-half-full outlook.
On the glass-is-half-empty side this was also a potential preview of a first round playoff series. You’d hate to see a win like this give a young team like Utah hope. You’d also hate to see the Lakers carry this type of effort into the coming week. They’ve got to do the Texas two-step, stopping in Houston and Dallas before coming back to Staples for a rivalry meeting with the Blazers.
Perhaps we’re so spoiled by Bryant’s brilliance that a night like this seems more shocking than it truly is. What is more revealing is how incapable the Lakers are of matching the efforts of hungry teams like Utah. The defense and ball security issues are troubling for a veteran team like Los Angeles. What is even more disturbing is how often we see them cower to an aggressive foe like Utah was tonight.
Mamba never said he wouldn’t have games like this. When he does we’re usually treated to a statement performance his next time out. With the way the Lakers have played on the road they’re going to need a motivated Mamba to show his masked vengeance in Texas.