No NBA story has been more publicized this year than the Los Angeles Lakers’ surprising struggles after a monstrous offseason. The visiting Utah Jazz, who have had their own struggles on the road, served as a welcome sight for L.A. on Friday, as the Lakers scored an easy 102-84 win.
Entering the game with a 17-25 record (good for 12th in the Western Conference), the Lakers assumed the persona of a driven team with a desperate urgency to get back on track. Conversely, the Jazz, winners of four consecutive games, played the part of a tentative team. The end result was a Los Angeles victory running away.
Lakers Stars Starring: Much of the offseason hype naturally centered on the transactions that brought Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to the bright lights of Los Angeles. Coupled with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, the Lakers were set to sport a lineup of four likely Hall of Famers.
Fast forward to the present, and much of the media’s focus up until now has centered on how the stars have not meshed as well as many predicted. On Friday night, however, things clicked.
Bryant decided to become the facilitator for the Lakers, shooting only 10 shots — he averages 22.1 attempts a night — while doling out 14 assists. He also added nine rebounds and three steals to his 14-point game. Time and time again, Bryant was able to make the right pass that helped nip any Utah run in the bud.
Howard was dominant defensively, holding Utah’s Al Jefferson to 5-for-14 shooting. Howard snared 13 rebounds and, thanks to a bevy of easy dunks, registered 17 in the scoring column.
Gasol, the subject of many trade rumors, only saw 25 minutes but made the most of them. He was very active offensively, going 7 of 8 from the floor en route to 15 points and seven rebounds.
And lastly, Nash was smooth in putting up 15 points. One of the game’s most prolific passers, Nash only had two assists. But on this night, it mattered little.
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• Utah’s veteran point guard duo, Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson, were ice cold on offense, combining to go just 4 of 17 from the field.
• Some of the things that have been going so well for the Jazz — assisted baskets and 3-point shooting — were noticeably absent Friday. Utah had just 16 assists (compared to 34 field goals) and connected on just 3 of 14 from downtown.
• The Lakers outrebounded the Jazz 45-30.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.