LOS ANGELES — So much for having bragging rights over Los Angeles.
The Utah Jazz fell to the Lakers 102-84 on Friday night at Staples Center, snapping their four-game winning streak against a shockingly good L.A. team.
Considering the nasty inversion along the Wasatch Front, Jazz fans can't even find comfort in resorting to pollution smack against smog-suffering SoCal fans.
Despite the Lakers playing like the worst team in the NBA of late, this was just the type of game Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin feared might happen to his surging squad.
"You hear the stories," he said Friday morning when asked about the Lakers' struggles. "But I look at the talent on this team and I worry about us playing them tonight and playing against the talent."
Corbin had good reason to worry.
If the Lakers play like they did against the Jazz in this blowout, the rest of the NBA might be concerned, too.
"These are veteran guys. They're proud guys," Corbin said. "And, in my opinion, they'll get it figured out. I just don't want them to get it figured out against us tonight."
It was the sleeping giant group of star-power veterans who figured it out — for one night, at least.
Kobe Bryant was in near-triple-double territory, totaling 14 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds.
Metta World Peace scored 17 points, including five of the Lakers' nine 3-pointers. Dwight Howard powered his way to 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Pau Gasol contributed 15 points and seven boards off the bench.
Not to be left out, former two-time MVP Steve Nash scored 15 points for a Laker team that had its offense going from inside and out and shot 52 percent.
L.A. didn't just knock down shots, either. The re-energized Lakers knocked the Jazz around the court in this one-sided game.
"You got to give them credit," Corbin said. "Their backs are up against the wall, and they came out and played an aggressive game on the defensive end."
The loss spoiled the Jazz's attempt at sweeping the Lakers in the regular season for the first time in franchise history. It also ended a pair of four-game losing skids for L.A. — overall this season and against Utah over the past two seasons, the latter being the longest-ever by the Jazz.
"You could tell they were the more desperate team tonight. We've just got to be better," Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward said. "We didn't bring it from the start, kind of dug ourselves a hole."
Reserves Derrick Favors and Hayward led the Jazz with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Utah's starters, meanwhile, struggled, with Al Jefferson scoring 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting, Paul Millsap and Randy Foye adding just 10 points apiece, and Jamaal Tinsley missing nine of 12 field-goal attempts.
Utah dropped to 23-20 overall and 9-16 on the road. The Jazz return home tonight for a game against the Indiana Pacers (7:30 p.m. tipoff).
"We are upset. Coach is upset with us," Foye said. "But it's one game and we've got to bounce back."
The Lakers, who improved to 18-25, seemed determined to end their season-long implosion from the get-go Friday. They led by double digits for much of the night and never allowed the Jazz to sustain a serious rally in the second half.
World Peace opened the game with a 3-pointer, setting the tone for a turnaround performance for the team that had lost 10 of 12 games.
Howard followed with consecutive inside buckets, including a Bryant-fed alley-oop slam dunk.
That 7-0 Laker start ballooned to a 15-4 lead just four minutes into the contest and eventually grew to 21 points.
Utah got within a bucket on a couple of occasions in each half, but the visitors, who had won eight of 10, never led and were outplayed in every facet.
Earl Watson and Favors connected on an impressive alley-oop play to cut L.A.'s lead to 61-58 in the third, but that small gap was short-lived.
The Lakers responded to Utah's 6-0 run with consecutive 3-pointers from Chris Duhon and World Peace (two), and the rare rout by the Lakers was on. L.A. took a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter and dominated the final 12 minutes, strangely looking like the powerful team it was supposed to be.
"They just outhustled us," Hayward said. "Their cuts were sharper, they seemed to get a lot of loose balls, a lot of second opportunities. They're too good for that, too talented."
Utah shot just 42 percent with only 16 assists, had one of its second-lowest offensive outputs of the season, got outrebounded 45-30 and was outscored 54-40 in the paint.
In other words, Corbin's worst-case scenario played itself out. The coach even said the Jazz's recent success against the Lakers — winning four straight, including the last two in L.A. — "means nothing" because they had to come out and do it again.
Which they didn't.
Not even against the recently lousy Lakers.
"This is a good club, man. They haven't played their best basketball just yet," Corbin said Friday morning. "But they're a veteran group that can get it going and if you think anything other than executing how you have to play against them to get a win, then you're setting yourself up for failure."6 comments on this story
"They just outhustled us," Hayward added. "The aggressor usually wins, and they were definitely the aggressor tonight."