Image: ara.cat

Image: ara.cat

The Lakers never trailed in a 110-99 victory at home against the conference-worst Utah Jazz.

After losing 6 straight, including 3 against some of the worst teams in the league, the Lakers knew they had to have this one.  They delivered.

Kendall Marshall and Pau Gasol got the Lakers started, leading them to a 30-12 first quarter.  In just his first game as a starter for the Lakers, Marshall put up career highs in points (20), assists (15), and rebounds (6) in an almost-career high 41 minutes.  He looked poised, confident, and experienced running an offense he was introduced to just two weeks ago.

Pau played aggressively and efficiently as he flirted with a triple double, posting 23 points (10-17 FG), 17 rebounds and 8 assists to go along with his 3 blocks.  His consistent scoring both in the post and in the mid-range game paced the Lakers’ offense, which seemed to have new-found life and energy as the Lakers shot 52% from the field and had 33 assists as a team.

This energy carried over to the defensive end where the Lakers really stepped it up.  They held the Jazz to just 40 first-half points, had 6 blocks and 4 steals, and scored 14 points off of 10 Utah turnovers.  They had a lapse at the beginning of the 4th quarter, allowing the Jazz to go on a 16-7 run to cut the lead to around 7 and eventually, the Jazz dropped the once 21-point lead to four.  But the Lakers dug deep and got the stops they needed, finishing with an 11-point victory.  Most importantly, they played just good enough defense to keep the Jazz under 100 points and give their fans some free tacos!

Nick Young’s struggles as a starter continued as he had just 5 points through three quarters.  But as soon as it became crunch time, Swaggy P found himself in his comfortable scoring role at the end of the game, racking up 11 more points in the fourth quarter to give him 16 on the night.  He ended up 6-14 from the field including a woeful 0-5 from 3-point land.

Speaking of three pointers, the Lakers made 10, at a 41.7% clip.  This is vastly better than they have been shooting, and much of that is thanks to Kendall finding players like Shawne Williams in spots where they can knock down wide-open three balls.

Shawne had 10 points on 3-3 long balls to go along with a terrific post-game interview in which he said that Nick Young looked like Yeezus in the outfit he was wearing.

Jodie Meeks stepped up as the back-up ball handler, dropping 18 points on 6-14 shooting (3-10 3FG) to go along with 6 assists.  He hit the same types of open-court shots he was hitting earlier in the year, and hit a dagger three at the end of the game after missing his last 5 or so.

Wesley Johnson showed up, too, getting 11 points on a perfect 5-5 shooting including 1 three and a breakaway layup off his own steal.  He had 2 steals and 1 block and looked like he was rejuvenated after a long stretch of bad games.

Robert Sacre started next to Pau Gasol tonight, and provided the perfect compliment.  He played tough post defense on Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter (two guys Pau would have trouble with) and came up with 10 much-needed rebounds.

Best aspects of tonight’s game:

  • The Lakers helped the helper on defense.  This is why the held the Jazz to 40 points in the first half.
  • The Lakers won the rebounding battle 46-41
  • The Lakers completed 33 assists
  • The Lakers committed just 10 turnovers
  • The Lakers scored 22 fast break points.

Lakers Player of the Game

This one is easy.  Kendall Marshall was a true difference-maker in this one.  His numbers were terrific but it was his poise and intelligence that really mattered.  He controlled the game as well as anyone could and found his teammates in great spots, and hit them with crisp and accurate passes.  Best of all, he managed to be equally effective scoring the ball and passing the ball while still maintaining a pass-first point guard’s mentality. For the most part, he didn’t force passes or shots, and looked like he had been running D’Antoni’s offense for years.  Kendall played solid defense as well, holding December Rookie of the Month Trey Burke to just 6 points.  If he can maintain anywhere close to this performance, the Lakers ought to be able to bring their record closer to .500 before the rest of the point guards return.

Next Game

Sunday, Jan 5 at 6:30 p.m. PST vs. the Denver Nuggets

This is an article by Joey Rudin. You can follow him on Twitter: @J_Rude24