Offensively, the Los Angeles Lakers picked up in Game 3 where they left off in the first two games of their Western Conference semifinal series with the Jazz.
The Lakers made five of their first six shots, and after three minutes of action in Game 3, were on pace to score 176 points.
Then, the unstoppable got stopped.
The Lakers made just one basket in the next 5:04 and watched an eight-point lead morph into a one-point deficit. The drought allowed the Jazz time to find their rhythm on offense and finally gave them what they sorely lacked in the first two games of the series confidence.
The result was Los Angeles' first defeat in the 2008 NBA playoffs, a 104-99 loss to Utah on Friday night.
None of the Lakers played particularly well in the game-changing first half. The early turning point occurred when Derek Fisher picked up his second foul less than three minutes into the game. He was replaced by Jordan Farmar, who went 0-for-5 from the field during a lackluster first half. Farmar's play was so bad that coach Phil Jackson inserted Fisher back into the lineup with two fouls and 9:37 left until halftime.
"Early in that first quarter, Fisher got that second foul, and we had to make an adjustment out there," Jackson said. "Jordan was off his rhythm. He wasn't quite ready to go in there and do the job he had to do."
Los Angeles struggled in the first half at EnergySolutions Arena the same way the Jazz did at the Staples Center in the first two games of the series. After averaging 58.5 points in the first half of the first two games of the series, the Lakers scored just 43 points in the first half of Game 3.
Kobe Bryant was 1-for-5 from the field in the first half and was held to just eight points. He picked up his play as well as his aggressiveness in the second half, finishing with 34 points. He was 14-for-17 from the free-throw line.
"He was tremendous in the second half," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "He was taking the game over, pretty much almost winning the ball game by himself. That's who he is."
Not even Bryant's heroics, however, could save Los Angeles' sloppy team play on offense. The Lakers committed 18 turnovers, while dishing just 14 assists. Bryant made his team's costliest turnover with 2:53 left in the game. He had a ball stolen by Andrei Kirilenko, and the Lakers never got closer the rest of the way.
"We turned the ball over quite a bit," Bryant said. "We have to keep our turnovers down and not allow them to get out in transition and get easy buckets."
Bryant said he was encouraged by some adjustments the Lakers made down the stretch in the fourth quarter, and he believes they will carry over to Game 4 on Sunday.
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