Lakers-Jazz: Series Heads to L.A. after Lakers Lose Game Four

Andrew KneelandSenior Writer IMay 11, 2008

Even though the Lakers lost this game, almost every eye in Los Angeles will be on Kobe Bryant's back.

Bryant tweaked it on Sunday afternoon early in the first quarter, yet he managed to give a valiant performance while hobbling up and down the court. 

Obviously, Bryant's back was a major factor in this game. Whenever a star like Bryant gets injured, his team's chances of winning drop drastically.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson tried a different offensive strategy on Sunday, as he went with Bryant from the get-go. Getting Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, or Lamar Odom the ball wasn't necessarily his plan early on.

There has already been much criticism of this technique because of Bryant's injury. He seemed to struggle more as the game progressed. Laker fans feel as if Jackson should have saved Bryant for the second half, where he would be needed more.

Gasol had a better game tonight than he did in Game 3. The big-man worked with Bryant in the two-man game quite effectively, but had to clean up for the MVP on numerous occasions. Gasol worked the offense well and limited himself to few errors. His great offensive rebounding is probably what kept the Lakers in the game up until the end.

Odom missed some key free throws and layups, but, along with Fisher, he did a great job in the clutch. Odom scored 26 points in the game, 10 coming in the fourth quarter. He did a great job of dishing the ball to Gasol as he went up for the layup, and also greatly helped rebounding on both sides of the ball.

Late in overtime, Bryant got fouled on the sideline and dropped over in pain, as seen above. That seemed to mark the bottom of the tank for Bryant, as he missed many ensuing shots. He got blocked on a drive, missed a three, then finally drained an easy layup.

Bryant had an opportunity for three free throws and nailed them all despite the awkward way he was shooting. The Utah fans greatly loved the last miss of the game from the MVP: an air-balled running three-point prayer.

Bryant shouldn't be blamed for this loss, however. Jackson should have spent a timeout near the end of regulation to tell the team to have Fisher, Odom, and Gasol take the shots. That wasn't the case, and Los Angeles' clutch closer tried to deliver another comeback win.

Fisher should also share some of the blame. He kept deferring the ball to others, while he could have easily scored, or at least made a clean drive to the basket. He needs to learn that sometimes it is best to do what you think is right, even if you think you might make some people angry in the process. 

Others feel that Jackson gave Bryant just enough rope to hang himself.

The Lakers will be forced to wait until Wednesday until they can attempt to rebound from two straight losses.

Look for Bryant's back to be better and the rest of the team to be fired up as the series heads back to Los Angeles.

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