Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Postgame Grades and Analysis for L.A.
The Jazz just had too many weapons for the L.A. Lakers and cruised to a 117-110 win Sunday night. Six Jazz players finished in double figures, paced by Paul Millsap's 24 and Mo Williams' 22.
The Jazz bench proved to be the deciding difference, and Dwight Howard just never got it going for LA, as they fell to 9-12 on the year.
The Lakers were a one-man show, with Kobe Bryant putting up 34 on 9-of-24 shooting. The Lakers got contributions from their bench, too, but they simply lack the firepower and diversification in their offense playing without two of their big four.
Steve Nash has only appeared in two games this season and Pau Gasol is on the shelf with knee tendinitis.
With Steve Blake out for six to eight weeks as well, it forced the Lakers to turn to third- and fourth-string point guards Chris Duhon and Darius Morris.
The Lakers played from behind all night but made a run to cut the lead to 115-107 with 1:41 remaining. But the Jazz hung on for the W.
Let's take a look at the Lakers' postgame grades.
Point Guard: Chris Duhon
It's really hard to find fault with Chris Duhon's game Sunday night. He looked like the player the Orlando Magic thought they were getting when they signed him as a free agent three seasons ago.
Coming off a promising career start with the Bulls and a somewhat disappointing season with the Knicks, Duhon was expected to fill a need in the Orlando offense as a pass-first point guard to augment Jameer Nelson's scoring.
We saw all of that from Chris Duhon versus Utah. He knocked down 4-of-6 from the floor including making 4-of-5 from three-point range en route to 12 points, 11 assists and five boards.
Duhon had one impressive "hockey assist" (pass before the actual assist) in which he batted the ball under the basket to Jordan Hill, and Hill reversed it over his head to Kobe for an easy jumper. It was a pretty pass and things like that don't show up in the stat sheet.
His defense on Mo Williams was a bit lacking, though, as Williams made 8-of-11 shots en route to 22 points, though Williams did miss a key shot late in the game as the Lakers were knocking on the door.
It'd be easy to give Duhon an A based on his offense, but it's hard to when he allowed the opposing point guard to knock down so many shots. Not one to give added emphasis to offense, I split the difference.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant was his usual self. He jacked up 24 field goals and got 14 attempts from the line, as he scored a game-high 34 points.
Bryant's field-goal percentage is a bit low, shooting 9-of-24, but the 14 free throws (connecting on 12) show he finds a way to score even when he's only hitting 37.5 percent of his shots. He was also forced into shooting a lot of tougher shots with little movement away from the ball on the part of his teammates.
Bryant let DeMarre Carroll produce more offense than usual, but Carroll was just hitting on the night and Randy Foye couldn't get much going on against Kobe. Either way, when Kobe is putting up 34 in 43 minutes, giving up 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting to the opposing 2-guard tandem isn't too shabby.
Kobe did most of his damage in the second half, as he was just 2-of-8 from the floor and had only shot four free throws at the half with the Lakers trailing by 16. His second-half effort nearly brought the Lakers out of the hole.
Small Forward: Metta World Peace
Metta World Peace got aggressive in the second half after attempting only two shots in the first two quarters. He ended up scoring 12 on 4-of-6 second-half shooting, connecting on two of his three three-point attempts in the contest. MWP didn't hit the boards at all, grabbing no rebounds. He also didn't have a single assist.
His defense was solid, however, and he held Gordon Hayward to 4-of-11 shooting. Starting Jazz small forward Marvin Williams was a near non-factor in the game, scoring seven points in nearly 23 minutes, though he did hit 3-of-4 from the floor.
The lack of rebounding hurts Metta's grade, even if the Lakers did only get out-rebounded by one rebound. That's reason enough not to leave all the work to No. 12.
Power Forward: Antawn Jamison
The Lakers couldn't really afford to put Antawn Jamison on the floor much with Utah's big lineups.
Enes Kanter required max attention from Jordan Hill, but Hill struggled, eventually prompting Mike D'Antoni to try Dwight Howard on the Turkish-Swiss center, the No. 3 overall pick in 2011. Jamison had even less luck with Kanter (see photo).
Jamison played only about 16 minutes and connected on just 1-of-6 shots. He did have several nice passes, but those were more or less offset by his three turnovers. The few highlights save Jamison from a failing grade.
Center: Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard just doesn't seem to be a focal point of Mike D'Antoni's offense, but No. 12 doesn't seem too miffed at how things have changed since he departed Orlando. In a Kobe-centric offense, Howard just isn't shooting the same volume of shots, which has allowed him to focus more on rebounding and defense.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, the defense still isn't where it should be, but it really isn't any fault of Howard's.
He grabbed 16 rebounds and had two blocked shots in the game, but scored just 11 points and avoided the free-throw line like the plague, shooting just two free throws (of course, making only one).
Howard's role has changed in LA, so we can't grade him based on the offensive expectations he carried in the past.
When D'Antoni put Howard back in the game on Kanter, Kanter proceeded to take two shots out of his comfort zone, missing both. The Utah big man had made his first six shots from the floor and got to the basket at will prior to Howard entering the game.
6th Man: Jodie Meeks
Jodie Meeks was huge off the bench and provided offense when the Lakers were lagging. Watching the game on too small of a TV, on two plays I thought he was Kobe. While that is humorous, it also speaks to how well Meeks was getting to the basket, and he hit several nice finishes that looked Mamba-esque.
Meeks connected on 6-of-14 from the floor and 3-of-6 from three-point range en route to 16 points. Most of that damage came in the second half, as he made 5-of-8 from the floor in the second half, including 2-of-3 from distance. Meeks and Bryant combined for 39 points in the second half, with 13 coming from Meeks.
Outside of Meeks and the aforementioned Hill, the Lakers didn't get a lot out of their bench. Devin Ebanks hit back-to-back shots and finished with five points, but Darius Morris was a near non-factor in the game, missing all four of his field goals and getting only three assists in about 17 minutes of play (though he did not turn the ball over).
Jordan Hill had an impressive offensive game, hitting 8-of-11, but he had absolutely no answer at all for Kanter.
Removing Meeks from the equation would result in a poor grade, but sixth men are still part of the bench, and Jordan Hill had a good offensive game in 30-plus minutes of floor time.