After sporting the 28th ranked bench last season, the Lakers made a concentrated effort to improve one of their most glaring weaknesses. Their strides of improvement shone bright Tuesday night as the Lakers bench led the way to victory. Behind great efforts by Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, and Jodie Meeks, the Lakers struggled early, found their stride midway through the game, and outlasted the Jazz en route to a 108-94 win.
The front office cast a wide net this off-season, bringing in a former Laker (Farmar), a duo of perceived busts (Johnson, Henry), and a integrated players already on the roster (Meeks, Hill) to form a dynamic bench that played at a high-pace all night, totaling 74 points on the night. Farmar’s red-hot shooting in the fourth quarter, 15 points in the frame, helped Los Angeles maintain a lead despite the Jazz matching them shot for shot. Farmar’s big night saw him score 20 points on 5 of 7 shooting from the field (8-9 from the line) while handing out 3 assists.
The Lakers starters started slow, missing their first seven shots from the field before Pau Gasol broke the early goose egg. Still, the Lakers headed into the second frame down 26-18. Enter the Lakers bench, who exploded for a 19-2 run and outscored the Jazz 33-19 in the quarter, taking a six point lead into halftime.
Again, the Lakers came out in the 3rd quarter lethargic with it’s starters minus Nash, who was replaced by Meeks. But the bench saved them once again, with Farmar and Hill hooking up on numerous pick and rolls while Johnson made plays all over the floor to aid the Lakers efforts. The 4th quarter saw lots of Farmar and a couple of key plays from Meeks as the Lakers outlasted the Jazz. Meeks’ 15 points came on 5 of 9 shooting while he added 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. Johnson added 14 points of his own while pulling down 6 rebounds in just 22 minutes.
Gasol, Williams, and Nick Young all scored 9 points a piece, but did so on 11 of 31 shooting from the field. Williams was the recipient of many open looks, but struggled with his shooting stroke all night. Steve Nash played just 15 minutes on the night, remaining on the bench for the entire second half while nursing a handful of injuries. Chris Kaman did not play due to illness, but is expected to practice Thursday.
The Lakers now sit at 3-4 in the preseason with one final contest remaining Friday against the Jazz. Tip-off is 10:00 PM Eastern, 7:00 PM Pacific.