Lakers’ loss to Utah Jazz prompts plenty of questions

The Lakers’ soap opera becomes a dizzying blur so it’s forgivable if these incidents seem hazy.

Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol looked frustrated over the endless physical play. The Lakers looked frustrated with the Princeton offense, period. In a video that instantly went viral, Kobe Bryant personified his anger with an infamous glare many believed directed toward former coach Mike Brown. The Lakers fired him two days later.

Last month, the Utah Jazz contributed to the Lakers’ anxiety. As an encore, the Lakers’ 117-110 loss Sunday to the Jazz at Staples Center created other problems.
The Lakers (9-12) are cemented in 11th place in the Western Conference after losing four of their last five games. The Lakers have also dropped four consecutive games to the Jazz dating back to last season.
“Anytime you give any away, it’s always a problem,” said Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who posted 34 points albeit on 9 of 34 shooting. “It inevitably comes back at the end of the year and bites you.”

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni questioned the team’s effort after seeing Utah post 54 points in the paint, 23 second-chance points and 19 points in transition.

“I don’t think we have a gut-check moment yet,” he said. “At some point, we’re going to have to draw a line in the sand.”

Howard didn’t complain on posting 11 points on only 10 field-goal attempts. But he confirmed his on-court frustration attributed to receiving little defensive support. The Lakers have also allowed opponents to score at least 100 points in six of their last seven contests.

“Guys have to understand I’m going to try to block shots and I’m going to help as early as I can,” Howard said. “But we have to get each other’s back. We’ll get it done. We have to communicate and keep playing.”

The Lakers only showed that spurts against Utah.

The Jazz struck first by scoring the game’s first eight points. Utah’s 60-51 half-time lead featured a second-quarter where Enes Kanter met no resistance inside (eight second-quarter points) and the Lakers making DeMarre Carroll looking like an All-Star (eight second-quarter points). The Lakers sliced the lead enough to an 88-85 deficit entering the third quarter. They also rallied with a 17-9 run late in the fourth quarter to make the score respectable.

But the effort didn’t change the outcome.

“I have to take responsibility to get them to play hard,” D’Antoni said. “I have a bad knee and have a hard time getting up and down. But it’s my responsibility to get them to the mentality where they’re playing hard.”

Utah’s Paul Millsap (24 points), Mo Williams (22 points), Kanter (14), Gordon Hayward (14), Al Jefferson (14), and Carroll (14) had no problem scoring. Antawn Jamison hardly campaigned well for a permanent starting position (three points on 1-of-7 shooting).

The lone highlights included Jordan Hill’s emergency under D’Antoni (15 points) and Jodie Meeks’ continual strong shooting (16 points).

Meanwhile, the Lakers have to figure out how to improve their 2-6 road record with a six-game trip this week, including stops in Cleveland (Tuesday), New York (Thursday), Washington (Friday) and Philadelphia (Sunday).

“This a time where teams might fold or stop trusting each other,” Howard said. “For us to win a championship, we have to stay focused and stay together.”

That didn’t happen against Utah, propelling new storylines into the Lakers’ never-ending soap opera.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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