Lakers vs. Jazz: Postgame Grades and Analysis for L.A.
Utah jumped out of the gate with momentum, taking a 25-17 lead into the second quarter. The Jazz were the more physical, more organized team early, and that pattern would continue late into the contest.
The second half saw the Lakers go multiple trips without points, which is not a recipe for success for a team that is in the bottom half of the league in points allowed.
Simply put, the Lakers can’t afford to go so many possessions without scoring the basketball.
Like we’ve seen throughout parts of this season, the Lakers looked best when they were able to get out and play in transition. The only times they seemed to have momentum is when they were playing fast, as their half-court game just could not get it done most of the night.
Kobe Bryant led the way for the Lakers with 29 points, but the team couldn’t hold on, losing their fourth in their first five games.
Point Guard: Steve Blake
Steve Blake made headlines recently for the wrong reason, as he was fined $25,000 for cursing at a fan, according to Dave Mcmenamin of ESPN. Unfortunately for the Los Angeles Lakers point guard, his week hasn’t gotten much better.
Versus Utah, Blake couldn’t hit a shot in the first quarter despite coming into the game shooting 62.5 percent from behind the arc. He had three opportunities to drain wide-open jumpers early, but he botched them all.
He would go on to shoot just 2-of-8 from behind the line, which is the one area you felt you could count on him coming into this game.
Defensively, Blake looked lost the entire night. Mo Williams was running circles around him, he couldn’t keep up in pick-and-roll situations, and he let his man beat him down the floor on most transition occasions.
Blske did take a timely charge to prevent a five-point swing in the first half, but his overall defensive presence wasn’t what you want to see.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant claimed before the season began that the Lakers were his team and nobody else’s, but the 16-year vet sure had a hard time taking over this contest against the Utah Jazz.
Midway through the second quarter, Bryant took it upon himself to get the offense rolling. He made numerous trips to the line and he made his presence felt in the paint.
Bryant finished the game with 29 points, five rebounds and four assists. His field-goal percentage was nothing to celebrate, but his efficiency from the line (15-of-17) was exactly what you want to see from your team's star player.
On defense, Bryant was caught looking on multiple Marvin Williams jumpers. He has been a great defensive player throughout his career, but he spent far too much time complaining about no-calls and conceding fast-break buckets to the Jazz on the other end.
Late in the contest, Bryant did what Bryant does, which is put the team on his shoulders in a comeback attempt. Unfortunately for the Lakers, it was too little, too late, and the Jazz hung on with the home court on their side.
Small Forward: Metta World Peace
In a contest where the Utah Jazz were the far more physical team, Metta World Peace established himself as one of the most aggressive players on the entire Lakers roster.
Good positioning down low helped him get to the line six times in the first half, and he was consistently getting to the rim in isolation and post-up situations.
He also had one of the most aggressive moves we’ve seen from him in quite some time, as he drove down the lane and finished with authority.
As aggressive as World Peace was, he was one of many victims of missing open shots for the Lakers. He finished the game just 3-of-12 shooting, including 2-of-6 from behind the three-point line.
World Peace earns a decent grade in this one on heart and effort alone, but his end result would have had much more impact if he had turned that aggression into production on a more consistent basis.
Power Forward: Pau Gasol
Paul Gasol had one of the least memorable nights we’ve seen out of him in quite some time.
Finishing with just five points and seven rebounds, it’s tough to pinpoint where his true impact was felt. He shot just 2-of-9, he didn't have a single block, and he only made it to the line twice the entire night.
Defensively, the seven-footer had difficulty recovering on rotations throughout the game. On possessions where Howard had to help elsewhere, Gasol was late to recover multiple times, and as a result, the Jazz ended up with way too many uncontested looks right at the rim.
Halfway through the second quarter, Kobe Bryant began taking it upon himself to get the team back in the contest, and as a result, Gasol found himself with a few open looks from the perimeter. The problem is, the big man was rarely able to take advantage and the Jazz were more than content leaving him open with the game in their hands.
Center: Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard may have led the Lakers in both points and rebounds at the half, but it was clear from the start of the game that Utah was willing to bully him down low as long as they could get away with it.
Howard was out-rebounded by Al Jefferson on multiple possessions early. On offense, even when he did manage to find good positioning against Jefferson, he was out-jumped and blocked from behind by a much shorter Paul Millsap.
Howard had a few possessions where he showed he can get it done on the block and finish above the rim, but when the Jazz sent him to the line, we saw the same inadequacies we’ve seen almost all year long. We even caught a glimpse of his first air ball from the charity stripe this season.
We all know what Howard is capable of, and while we saw it on occasion, we didn’t see it nearly enough for this team to succeed against a physical Jazz group.
The big man finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 37 minutes of play.
Sixth Man: Jordan Hill
In a game where the bench struggled mightily from start to finish, Jordan Hill provided the team with the most minutes and the most production of anybody in the second unit.
His biggest role against the Jazz was on the boards. Hill finished the game with 12 rebounds in 23 minutes, and he provided a sense of gritty toughness that the team wasn't getting from many other players on the night.
Offensive rebounding is where he really shined, as he pulled down seven on that end of the floor, and he saved multiple possessions that would have otherwise gone the other way.
Offensively, Hill didn’t stand out. His took just five shots, made just one and scored four points on the night. But that's not what Hill is expected to do. He is expected to hit the glass, and that's just what he did against the Jazz.
Every team needs someone who is able to come in and make a difference on the boards when the starters go out, and Hill proved to be that guy in this contest.
The Lakers bench has been bad all season, and unfortunately, that trend continued on the road against the Utah Jazz.
Scoring just 12 points, there were virtually no contributions to be found outside of Jordan Hill.
The problem isn’t that they weren’t getting open looks. With the attention on a motivated Kobe Bryant in the third quarter, double-teams on the Lakers star left players such as Devin Ebanks and Darius Morris open on the perimeter.
Sadly, open jumpers weren’t enough to get the reserves going, as they missed multiple opportunities to pull the team closer before it was too late.
The Lakers have one of the best starting units in the entire NBA, but at their age and with their health, this bench squad is going to have to step up before management takes matters into their own hands.