Game Notes: Jazz at Lakers
Odom dominates from start to finish.
On a night when the buzz was supposed to surround Kobe Bryant, what else is new, Lamar Odom nearly ended up stealing the limelight.
Prior to Friday evening’s game against the Jazz at Staples Center, the Lakers announced they signed Bryant to a contract extension that, for all intents and purposes, will keep him in Purple and Gold for the rest of his career.
Strangely enough, Kobe proceeded to go out and struggle.
In fact, he played one of his poorest games of the season.
Go figure right?
Turns out, Bryant picked the perfect time to have an off-night. Odom had his back, scoring nine of his season-high 26 points during a crucial stretch of the fourth quarter to guide the Lakers to a much-needed 106-92 victory over Utah.
By most accounts, it was a must-win gane for the Lakers given the fact they were returning from a rather unsuccessful road trip. Winning two out of the five games away from sunny Southern California wasn’t necessarily expected.
Odom made sure to right the wrong.
Guarantee Kobe wasn’t complaining afterward, not after shooting 5-23 from the field. He managed to make 15-18 attempts from the line and that certainly helped matters, enabling him to finish with 25 points. In the end though, Odom saved the day.
*** The Lakers set up a press conference well before the opening tip and General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Bryant each stepped up to the podium to discuss some of the particulars of Kobe’s deal, reportedly in the $90 million dollar range. For those interested, here’s the link if you’d like to check out all the pomp and circumstance.
*** Andrew Bynum won’t be back anytime soon, barring a medical miracle, that is. He’s still on the mend from a strained left Achilles’ tendon. The injury is expected to keep him out of the lineup for another two weeks, at least.
*** Utah has its share of problems too. Andrei Kirilenko has been nursing a troublesome calf injury and won’t be in uniform tonight.
*** Derek Fisher is feeling it from out on the perimeter. He knocks down a three-pointer. And another one, although his foot might have been on the arc on the shot. Fisher gets a layup to fall and the Lakers take a 21-10 lead at 5:30.
*** The Jazz can’t buy a basket. It’s bad. C.J. Miles throws up a brick. Make that three bricks in a row. Paul Millsap comes off the bench and goes 0-4 from the field. Coach Jerry Sloan is beside himself. Not much he can do.
*** Carlos Boozer gets busy underneath. He makes a layup. And 1. After his free-throw, Utah trails by 16 points with 2:27 left.
*** Odom hasn’t missed a shot yet, making five field goals, including a three-pointer. He’s off to a great start with 11 points. As a result, the Lakers open what appears to be a comfortable 33-16 advantage at the end of one.
*** Deron Williams is heating up. He picks Jordan Farmar’s pocket and goes coast-to-coast for the dunk. Farmar considers challenging him at the rim, but backs off. It’s a good idea. Things would’ve gotten ugly. Maybe this is the spark that’ll help get the Jazz back in the game. They’re down by 14 at 6:48.
*** After making three of his first five shots, Kobe has been cold. He can’t get into any sort of rhythm and heads to the bench for a breather.
*** D-Will makes a pair of layups and buries one from way downtown. He’s nearly single-handedly bringing the Jazz back. A pin-point pass to Mehmet Okur for a layup cuts the deficit to 45-37 with 3:38 left before intermission.
*** Mismatch, Ronnie Price on Ron Artest. With no other choice, Price tries to wrap up Artest. He fends off the undersized guard en route to a layup, foul, and three-point play. Ron-Ron plays to the crowd, flexing his muscles. Lakers up 11 at 3:17.
*** With time winding down, Bryant is set to take the last shot. His attempt just before the buzzer comes up short. The Jazz trail, 54-45, at the break. And things could’ve been worse if Williams didn’t score 18 points already.
*** Gasol is putting in work. He makes four free-throws a dishes a pass to Josh Powell for a bucket. At 7:56, the Lakers lead by 13 points and Gasol is well on his way to a triple-double with 8 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists so far.
*** D-Will is fun to watch, no doubt about it. He’s a competitor. At the top of the key, he crosses over Kobe, gets into the lane and banks in a shot high off the window, over Gasol. Utah still trails, 62-51, with 7:33 left.
*** D-Will, again. Out in transition, he spots Wesley Matthews cutting to the basket and whips a pass that leads to an uncontested dunk. The Jazz are down, by 10 points at 3:44, but they are not out, especially with Williams around.
*** Millsap sees an opening and heads to the rim with bad intentions. Gasol isn’t having any of that though. The two meet at the rim and Gasol rejects the shot. The Lakers haven’t let up and enjoy a 75-67 advantage at the end of three.
*** Okur knocks down a fade away jumper and Millsap follows with a basket over Bryant. All of sudden, we have ourselves a game. It’s about time. Utah is down by four points at 10:48. Plenty of time left, more than enough.
*** Odom takes over. He hits two three-pointers and three point-play, the ol’ fashioned way, to extend the lead to 84-72, with 7:54 remaining.
*** Bryant misses a shot, but Odom is there to clean up the mess with a sick put-back dunk. Minutes later, Gasol finds Odom along the baseline for thunderous one-handed finish. Utah is demoralized and trails by 19 at 4:52.
*** Down 99-82 with 3:03 left, Sloan has seen enough and calls his starters over toward the bench. Looks like Williams is done for the night. Yep, he is, finishing with 20 points and 10 assists. The Lakers go on to win, 106-92.
*** Odom appears to be settling into his new role as starter rather well. “I made shots I was supposed to make,” he said. “Even on the road trip, I felt I was playing good defense and rebounding, but I wasn’t making shots. I made a conscious effort to get to the hole.” Indeed he did. The Jazz had no answer, inside or outside, for Odom. It will be interesting to see how long he can continue to play at this level.
*** Afterward, everyone wanted to know about Bryant’s future, of course: “I’m really excited to be here,” he said. “It’s very rare to have a player play his entire career in one city, so I’m very excited about it.”
*** We didn’t talk much about Boozer. He did end up putting together some nice numbers. He had 20 points, on 8-16 shooting from the field, to go along with 18 rebounds in 33 minutes of action. His solid stat line shouldn’t come as a major surprise considering Boozer always plays well against the Lakers.
*** Come to think of it, Gasol wasn’t too shabby either. For those who have him in fantasy leagues, you’ll be happy to know that he was an assist shy of triple-double with 14 points, 16 rebounds and 9 assists.