SALT LAKE CITY — Sitting at his locker wearing a black robe, both knees wrapped and feet soaking in ice, Kobe Bryant offered no excuses for the Lakers' 102-96 loss to the Jazz on Friday night.
Instead, Bryant credited the Jazz for their physical play, energy provided by Utah's second unit and their ability to play hard regardless of the score in Friday's game.
"They have a lot of talent, and their guys play together," Bryant said. "They're unselfish. They're a great team."
Bryant didn't even point a finger at odd shot-clock malfunctions that happened at key points in the fourth quarter. With the Lakers up 96-93, Andrei Kirilenko missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer. The Jazz got the rebound, and play was stopped because the shot clock froze.
After a review, Utah was awarded the ball and Deron Williams drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game following an offensive rebound. Play was stopped again as the Lakers were on a fast break with the score still tied because the shot clock wasn't reset.
"It didn't bother us at all," Bryant said. "It was more comical than anything. We had a good run before the defense had a chance to set and they stopped the play. It happens."
L.A. coach Phil Jackson wasn't as diplomatic.
"That's a tough break on our part," Jackson said. "It was one of those things where an airball turned into a three-point play eventually after multiple stops and corrections. It just got all messed up at the end of the game."
Before the shot-clock malfunctions, Bryant appeared to have the Lakers well on their way to another win over the Jazz. He scored 14 straight L.A. points to put the Lakers up, 96-91. He didn't miss a shot in the fourth quarter, as he sank three 3-pointers, three free throws and a field goal.
The Jazz doubled Bryant the rest of the way, making Pau Gasol and Ron Artest take shots down the stretch. Neither player could knock down a key basket, as the Lakers were held scoreless in the game's final 2:32.
"We just couldn't make shots," Bryant said. "We had good looks."
It wasn't the first time in the game that L.A. went ice cold from the field. The Lakers, after roaring out to a 19-point lead, shot a dismal 19 percent from the field in the second quarter. That allowed the Jazz to get back in the game, and both Bryant and Jackson credited Utah's reserves for the momentum changing.
"Their second unit came in and did a really good job," Bryant said. "They picked up the pace. Their energy was great. We didn't make shots, which helped them get in transition. It was a good game by them."
Jackson said before the game that he was impressed with the spark the second unit, led by Earl Watson and Ronnie Price, have been providing the Jazz. They continued their stellar play against his team.6 comments on this story
"Watson and Price were very effective out there," Jackson said. "They got things running for them."
Bryant came away from Friday's game impressed with how the Jazz retain their identity while adding and losing players each season. That identity is a physical style that's a reflection of coach Jerry Sloan.
"They play that way (physically) all the time," Bryant said. "You can take the softest player in the league and put him on the Jazz and he's going to turn into a tough guy. That's just how Sloan teaches them. It doesn't change."