In almost every game, the Lakers (33-13) will have the advantage inside because of their dual 7-footers in the lane, which a lot of times is easy to take for granted if you're a Laker fan. But when you pay a closer attention to how both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum use their complimenting set of skills and physical abilities at the same time on the floor against their opponents, you just marvel at how they dominate the paint and how a whole lot of teams have no answer for them. Tuesday night was no different.
The Utah Jazz (27-18) came into town bruised and battered trying to finish their 5-game road trip with a win before they head back home to Salt Lake City. The problem for them was they've lost 16 straight at Staples Center, and they're catching a Laker team that isn't interested in playing as old as a lot of people are suggesting them to be. Not a good combination for Jerry Sloan and company!
To make matters worse, they have to find a way to deal with the Laker twin towers before they worry about the rest of the 2-time defending champs, especially the one called "The Black Mamba". To Sloan's credit, he did attempt at creating some sort of speed advantage by inserting athletic C.J. Miles at the wing in place of Andrei Kirilenko. It worked but only for the first few minutes of the game where Miles put up the first 7 points for the Jazz to bring them within one of a tie at 8-7. Utah got right back to a single point deficit later in the opening 12 minutes, but the Lakers ended the quarter with a 15-2 spurt and ran away with the kitchen sink before halftime.
The Laker defense, anchored by their interior and aided by their perimeter that challenged shots and rotated quickly, held the Jazz to 32.6% shooting in the first half while their offense converted 62.3% of their shots resulting in a 38-point lead at one point and a 120-91 shellacking of Utah. In fact, the Laker offense was tremendous once again.
They shot 44-for-71 (62%) while having an assist on 34 of those 44 makes. Plus, they knocked down 44% (8-18) of their 3-pointers and sank 82.8% (24-29) of their charity shots.
Kobe Bryant only attempted 11 shots and made 7, but he made up the rest of his game-high 21 points at the line by dropping 7 of his 8 free throws. Pau Gasol was next in line with 20 points. He got that in only 13 tries and 9 makes from the field. Andrew Bynum was the giant among giants with 19 points, 11 boards and 3 blocks. Of course, you can't forget about Lamar Odom, who had himself yet another solid outing off the bench with 17 points and 8 rebounds in only 22 minutes. By the way, his and-one shot when he threw up the ball as he got bumped towards the baseline and see the ball go through the hoop was the play of the night for the Lakers.
The efficiency on offense in which the Lakers are starting to win games with means that the entire team is starting to get into the same page in terms of doing exactly what they need to do in their part while trusting one another more that each player will bring it each time they set foot on the floor. It's not a secret that if Kobe's point and shot attempts are low, the Lakers dominate because that can only mean that the rest of the team stepped up. That's championship-level basketball, and that's exactly how the Lakers ran all over Utah to pick up their 33rd win of the season and improve their streak against the Jazz at Staples Center at 17.
The champs won't play again until Friday when they take on the second-worst team in the West, the Sacramento Kings.
TP&G Blog's Player of the Game
Andrew Bynum: The guy was the stud in the middle for the Lakers by being a force on offense and defense.
JAZZ: 41.9% (36-86) Field Goals / 37.5% (6-16) 3-Pt. FGs / 76.5% (13-17) Free Throws / 33 Rebounds (16 Offense) / 29 Assists / 44 Points in the Paint / 18 Fast Break Points / 17 Turnovers / Biggest Lead: 0
LAKERS: 62% (44-71) Field Goals / 44.4% (8-18) 3-Pt. FGs / 82.8% (24-29) Free Throws / 38 Rebounds (4 Offense) / 34 Assists / 46 Points in the Paint / 20 Fast Break Points / 16 Turnovers / Biggest Lead: 38 Points
Home: Friday, Jan. 28th vs. Sacramento Kings at 7:30 p.m. (PST). TV: FoxSports West (regional)/NBA-LP (national) Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN (Los Angeles)