Five things to take from Lakers' 90-87 overtime victory over Utah Jazz
1. Lakers make some amazing and horrific late-game plays in 90-87 overtime victory Wednesday over the Utah Jazz. The final minutes of the Lakers' game against Utah represented a case study on how they need to close out games and what they need to avoid in such situations.
First the good: Kobe Bryant rectifies his one-for-five mark in overtime by making sinking two free throws and then blocking Devin Harris' long-distance three-pointer to secure the win. Andrew Bynum rectified an otherwise poor performance by tipping in one of Bryant's missed shots and making a block on Al Jefferson on Utah's second-to-last possession. Pau Gasol made a three-pointer that gave the Lakers an 86-85 lead with 2:02 remaining after committing two turnovers to start the overtime. Bryant compensated for one of Gasol's turnovers by grabbing a rebound off Paul Millsap's miss and making a three-pointer to cut the Utah lead to 82-81 with 3:22 left.
Credit the Lakers for keeping their composure late in the game. But criticize them for making some bone-headed plays. Bryant's airball that forced overtime came on an isolation set that featured no off-ball movement whatsoever. Nearly all of Bryant's misses in overtime came in heavy traffic. And Gasol's two turnovers showed his late reaction to double teams. Talk about a close call.
2. Kobe Bryant initially carried the load. Yes, it's entertaining to see Bryant drop another high-scoring effort with 40 points on 14-for-31 shooting. Marvel at his footwork as he spins past Raja Bell for an And-1 bank shot. Admire his aggressivness as he maintained the same intensity as he did in his 48-point effort Tuesday against Phoenix. Love his focus as he doesn't allow Bell to rattle him after Bell earned a technical foul.
But it's hardly a good thing that Bryant's doing all the work. He's shown that he can. But this formula will eventually lead to burnout without much of a supporting cast. It's not exactly Bryant's fault no one else has elevated his play. After all, the Lakers correctly rode the hot hand. But his teammates in turn have to match Bryant's aggresssiveness.
3. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol aren't providing enough of a post presence. With exception to their overtime efforts, Bynum and Gasol hardly provided enough. This time, their lack of effectiveness had nothing to do with Bryant's large volume of shots. It had to do with Bynum's continual struggle on playing through double teams and Gasol's lack of aggressiveness. Al Jefferson provided little to no defense on Gasol, but he only finished with 14 points on five-for-14 shooting. Bynum's 12 points on five-for-13 shooting mostly came off sheer power or open looks. And don't be impressed with their combined 20 rebounds. That equaled what Millsap and Jefferson brought too. Gasol and Bynum should've dominated both of them on the glass, but failed to do so.
4. The Lakers have several absences. They entered the game already depleted on the frontline with Josh McRoberts (sprained big toe in left foot), Troy Murphy (gastroenteritis) and Jason Kapono (personal reasons involving the recent birth of his twin girls) missing the game. They also lost Steve Blake late in the third quarter because of a bruised rib. Metta World Peace and Luke Walton hardly made the same impact as they did against Phoenix. And Darius Morris appeared promising with speed and play-making abilities. But he tried to do too much.
5. Matt Barnes maintained efficiency. Barnes has perfected in doing the little things in the past four days. His 11 points on five-for-six shooting and seven rebounds all involved his usual bread-and-butter, including running the fast break with efficiency on both finishing and setting others up. Barnes constantly moved off the ball to ensure better rhythm. And he remained a great decoy any time Bryant, Gasol or Bynum met double teams, and knocking those open looks down with accuracy. The only downside invovled getting five fouls. Barnes may want to tone that aggressiveness down a bit.
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Photo: Utah guard Raja Bell, left, tries to contain Lakers guard Kobe Bryant during the first half of Wednesday' game. Credit: Jim Urquhart / Associated Press / January 11, 2012
Photo: Lakers center Andrew Bynum, right, blocks a shot by Utah forward Paul Millsap during Wednesday's game. Credit: George Frey / EPA / January 11, 2012