The Los Angeles Lakers (13-2) are red hot winning their last five in a row and going a perfect 8-0 to open up the season. They have been playing great basketball and are looking like defending champs should. The Utah Jazz (11-5) are a mediocre 3-3 at home, but are playing solid ball and really trying to find themselves after big off season moves and recent injuries, as they have won five of their last six, and now find themselves playing host to the rival Lakers.
“They are a great team”, said Bryant, who before the game called Williams the best point guard in the league, “they got a lot of talent, they play that was all the time. You can take the softest player in the league and put him on the jazz, he’ll turn into a tough guy”
Kobe opened up the game with a sweet no look pas to a cutting Lamar Odom after a great penetration move to the basket, he changed pace on Derron Williams and executed on the drop off as Odom had an easy two early. Anytime Bryant touched the ball the fans haunted him with boos, Utah is a very hard place to play, but Kobe seemed to thrive off negative energy as he immediately went to work on Raja Bell in the post and was on target hitting a beautiful step back fifteen footer, followed by a reverse lay up. Kobe sealed Bell by the basket where he received a great pass from Gasol, which allowed Bryant to lay the ball up without even looking at the rim. Kobe was feeling his shot as he helped push the Lakers to a 33-17 lead at the end of the first quarter. His mid range game looked effortless as he came from either side of the basket and drilled the shot. Bryant seems to be real comfortable at Energy Solutions Arena, as he loved to quiet the chanting fans with unbelievable shots and deadly moves.
He continued the second half as he opened the game, connecting on a jumper off the glass from about 17 feet, with a hand in his face, showing the concentration and complexity of his game. He really understands what the defense is giving him and will take full advantage of the defender as he did on Andrei Kirilenko late in the fourth with an aware move (swing thru shot attempt), pulling up for the three and getting to the free throw line. He is shooting over 86% for the season and thrives off getting there. Kobe continued difficult and utterly amazing shots as he connected on back-to-back contested threes and knocked down a difficult floater over the outstretched arms of two defenders. Shots like that show why he is hands down the best offensive player in the game. Kobe single-handedly kept the Lakers in the game scoring the last 14 points of the game.
In the first 43 min of the game Kobe scored 17 points on 6-17 from the field and 0-2 from behind the arch, in the final 5 min of the game he caught fire scoring 14 on 4-4 fga and 3-3 from three. It was an unbelievable performance, as he led the Lakers with 31 in a loosing effort. Pau Gasol had a great game scoring 21 on 9-14 from the field, collecting 11 rebounds and dropping 5 dimes. Odom had a double double with 16 and 10. It was the overall production of the Jazz bench that ultimately sealed the victory, outscoring the Lakers bench 20-13, out rebounded them 12-6, and out assisted them 7-2, as they pulled off the 102-96 victory.
The Lakers look to get back on their winning streak Sunday night versus the Pacers, a team they have owed of late, especially in LA where they have never lost to the franchise.
By Alexious Osumenya