LOS ANGELES The Jazz arrived here having endured a month's worth of nightmares on the road, stretching from the West Coast to the East and back.
They left tossing and turning after yet another evening of disastrous holiday season play away from the home front, having fallen 123-109 to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night at the sold-out Staples Center.
It was the 16-15 Jazz's ninth loss in their last 10 games away from EnergySolutions Arena with all 10 coming in a December to remember, if only for its fill of forgettable futility and frustration and loss No. 10 among their last 13 games overall.
In each of its last five road defeats, Utah blew a fourth-quarter lead.
This time, though, they looked like and played like a beaten team well before halftime.
"I don't think you can blame it on anything," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said when asked if the tough early season schedule is taking its toll. "It's just our fault. It's how we're playing. ... We're just a little soft."
"I don't think anybody on this team is happy about the way we've been playing lately," added shooting guard Ronnie Brewer, who accepted personal responsibility for "letting Kobe get going early." "It's not any fun to lose, so we've just got to find a way to win, come together as a team, find some heart somewhere."
Bryant finished with a game-high 31 points, including 21 in the first half, as the 19-10 Lakers scored 38 first-quarter points en route to their fourth straight victory overall and their fifth in a row at home.
That's four more opening-period points than any other Jazz opponent has posted this season, and it gave the Lakers who scored each of their first 18 points of the game inside on layups and dunks a comfy 15-point advantage heading into a second quarter in which they handily extended their lead.
The decisive Ripley's-worthy blow, believe it or not: A 16-0 run in which L.A. went from down one at 13-12 to up 15 at 28-13.
Utah never got back to within single digits after that.
By the break, the Lakers had scored 75 12 off the Jazz opponent record for points in a half, set by Milwaukee in 1979 and were up by a half-high 27.
L.A. scored its 99th and 100th points on a Kwame Brown dunk with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, led by as many as 34 in that period and went into the fourth all of which Bryant watched from the bench up 106-74.
That's not exactly the sort of showing sought by coach Jerry Sloan, whose Jazz fortuitously play seven of their next eight at home where they are 10-2 this season.
"They beat us about every way you can," Sloan said. "They came out and destroyed us that first half. They were so good defensively, we couldn't get anything we tried to run and we started to think we could try to beat them 1-on-1, and we didn't have much of a chance to do that either."
Sloan, who blames the Lakers' easy early inside scoring on poor Jazz shot selection, called his club "a little shell-shocked."
"(The Lakers) were getting on top of the basket real easy, because we were taking shots where there was no organization whatsoever, and you've got guys out of position trying to catch up," the Jazz coach said. "And you don't have much of a chance to do that, the way they were going."NOTES: Jazz starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko exited in the second quarter with a strained right biceps tendon, and left the building with his arm in a sling. Kirilenko sustained the injury late in Friday's first quarter and played five more minutes in the second, but didn't return after halftime. His status for tonight's game against Boston: "doubtful." ... Jazz guard Gordan Giricek, reinstated to the team Thursday after being banished for three games because of a battle-of-words with Sloan, dressed but didn't play Friday. Giricek said afterward he was OK with the decision ... Jazz forward Carlos Boozer and ex-Jazz guard Derek Fisher of the Lakers shared a long embrace during the pre-game captains' meeting. Fisher, who left Utah after one season and returned to Los Angeles this past offseason, and Boozer both have been enduring family health issues. Boozer's young son has been battling sickle cell anemia; Fisher's young daughter, a rare form of childhood eye cancer ... Boozer went into Friday's game tied for second with the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Kaman among NBA leaders in double-doubles this season with 22, trailing only the 26 of Orlando's Dwight Howard ... Boozer extended his double-double count to 23 Friday, and Fisher finished with 10 points ... Brewer went into Friday ranked fifth among league leaders in steals per game with 2.23, third in steals per 48 minutes (3.56) and first in steals-to-turnover ratio (1.86) ... Lakers small forward Luke Walton missed his third straight game with a sprained ankle and was replaced in the starting lineup by Trevor Ariza, acquired earlier this season via trade with Orlando ... At the Staples Center on Friday: former Jazz big man Robert Whaley, who before Friday's matinee loss to Bakersfield was averaging 6.3 points and 3.3 rebounds for the NBA Development League's Los Angeles D-Fenders, and D-Fenders guard Brian Chase, who started last season in Utah but never did play a regular-season game for the Jazz. Chase, who went into Friday's game averaging 15.3 points, scored 21 against Bakersfield.
E-mail: [email protected]