That’s as good a game as you’ll see in November in the NBA. The Lakers played the Jazz as if beating the Western Conference’s best team with 70 games to go meant everything. The teams will play again Thursday at Staples Center in a TNT game the basketball public will be able to see.
Lamar Odom came all the way from a tough start to have a strong game. Odom couldn’t get going in the first quarter against Andrei Kirilenko and sat the last 3 1-2 minutes. He also picked up three offensive fouls for the night. But Odom got to his favored left block for three baskets against rookie Paul Milsaps early in the second quarter and was on his way. The end wasn’t what he hoped for, though.
“Whats important is that this team doesnt lose or get discouraged because of a loss,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Thats not the key. The key is about how you play.
Jackson also talked before the game about Bryant volunteering to bring the ball up and direct the triangle offense after the Lakers struggled to break the Pistons’ zone defense. You have to wonder if that responsibility didn’t take a toll on Bryant in Friday’s game. He wasn’t able to take over like normal.
“Were going to have to have different people do that for us as we go through the season,” Jackson said. “Lamar did a lot of it last year. Kobe volunteered when we got a little bit stuck there to move out. I was happy to have him do that. I thought it was important.
The Lakers played zone defense down the stretch because Jackson wanted to counter the Jazz’s pick-and-roll plays. They wore their home gold uniforms because the NBA wanted the Jazz to wear their powder blue alternate road uniforms.
By Ross Siler
SALT LAKE CITY–As the streamers fell from the ceiling and the celebration started here Friday night, Lakers forward Lamar Odom took off his wristbands and tossed them aside in separate directions as he walked off the court.
Odom was the picture of dejection after the Lakers 114-108 loss to the Utah Jazz, a game in which coach Phil Jackson told his players afterward they had nothing to be ashamed about, even if one of them didnt agree.
The Lakers played as competitive a game as November has to offer, taking a Jazz team with the NBAs best record into the dying minutes of the fourth quarter before coming up short by a missed shot here and an offensive rebound there.
“It was a hell of a game, Jackson said. “We just didnt finish it out.
With Kobe Bryant missing all three shots he took in the fourth quarter and scoring just two points, Odom found himself with the ball in his hands three times in the last two minutes. The Lakers four-game winning streak hung in the balance.
Odom took a 3-pointer with 1:45 left that “crawled back out in Jacksons words after nearly falling in. The Jazz went ahead 107-104 at the other end as second-year guard Deron Williams knocked down a jumper after having his initial attempt blocked.
The Lakers went into a timeout and Odom attacked the basket coming out of it. He scored against Matt Harpring as part of a three-point play to tie the game. But the highs turned into lows in a matter of moments.
After Williams used a screen to bury a 3-pointer, Odom had his 2-footer roll around and out. Carlos Boozer grabbed the rebound for the Jazz, who never looked back. Jackson was left saying afterward of Odom: “He cant hold himself responsible for that.
The words rang hollow for Odom, who totaled 26 points and six rebounds on 7 of 14 shooting.
“Basketballs a humbling game, a humbling experience, Odom said. “Those are plays I have to make.
Boozer led the Jazz with 31 points – - 10 in the fourth quarter – - and 16 rebounds. Williams had 15 points and 10 assists. Back from a sprained ankle, Andrei Kirilenko scored only four points but had five blocks and guarded Bryant in the fourth quarter.
Williams drilled the nights biggest shot, a 3-pointer with 1 minute left that put Utah in front for good 110-107. Williams used a Mehmet Okur screen to knock down the 3; Lakers guard Smush Parker went under the screen and paid the price.
The Jazz also came up with two critical offensive rebounds on a wild possession with three minutes left, which ended in an Okur jumper. The Lakers were outrebounded 45-27 Friday, and gave up 15 offensive rebounds, seven to Boozer.
“I told them they had nothing to be ashamed of, Jackson said, “except that rebound total when they look at it.
The Lakers (8-4) led by as many as seven points early in the fourth quarter but were outscored 32-20 over the last 12 minutes. Bryant finished with 27 points but stepped back in the quarter as Jackson thought he became “leg-weary.
The proof was in the two free throws Bryant left short in the quarter. He scored 14 points in the first quarter but deferred to Odom and center Kwame Brown late. Bryant once again played in the backcourt and directed the Lakers offense.
“Its nights like tonight, games like tonight, Bryant said, “where they get that experience learning how to close out games, not having to lean on me for it.
The Lakers went to Brown four consecutive times in the fourth quarter and Brown delivered eight points. Okur became so frustrated that he tossed the ball against the basket standard to draw a technical foul.
There has been no greater surprise in the NBA this season than Utah, which improved to a league-best 12-1 and is averaging 108.3 points per game. The Lakers were playing their first road game in more than two weeks.
“I think that Utah is a legitimate team; I dont think theyre going to win the West as far as the best record, Jackson said. “But I do think theyre going to be a good team out here. For us, its the depth of this team and the veteran experience they have.