The Los Angeles Lakers are very familiar with the Energy Solutions Arena is Salt Lake City, Utah. The Lakers and the Jazz have had many intense playoff battles and unforgettable match-ups in the snowy city. Both teams once again faced-off for a Western Conference showdown, and this time the Lakers were battling two opponents; the feisty, Utah Jazz and the obnoxious, ignorant Utah Jazz crowd.
The game tipped-off and there was a playoff- type atmosphere in the arena. The crowd was hostile, but the champion Lakers remained calm. Almost every Laker received “boos” from the crowd when they touched the ball; however, no more than Derek Fisher or Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers played great offensively in the early parts of the game, and they were also challenging the Jazz on the defense end. Mid-way into the opening quarter the Lakers opened up to a 15-8 lead, while holding the Jazz to 36% from the field. The Lakers continued to assert their will against the Jazz, and were attacking the paint on the “short” opponent.
The Lakers were out-scoring and out-rebounding the Jazz, which helped them expand their lead to double digits. The first quarter ended and the Lakers were leading 33-17, shooting 68% from the field and had a 13-5 rebounding advantage.
The second quarter was a continuation of the Lakers’ first quarter success, as the Lakers kept on pounding the glass and getting easy shots in the paint. However, the Jazz bench brought energy to their team, and the crowd quickly got back into the game. Six minutes into the second quarter, the Jazz cut a 19 point lead to seven, 39-32.
Earl Watson was the catalyst for the Jazz’s stellar play in the second quarter, and he continued to help the Jazz gain momentum. The Jazz eventually cut the lead down to two with a little over three minutes left in the half, and the Lakers complacent style of play was back-firing. The first half concluded with the Lakers leading by four, 50-46. The team was shooting 43% from the field, and Pau Gasol was leading all scorers with 13 points.
Kobe Bryant came out of the locker-room aggressive and was looking for his shot; Kobe scored the team’s first four points to start the second half. However, no matter how successful Kobe was on the offensive end, the rest of the team could not help number 24. The Jazz had an answer for every Laker bucket, and the Lakers’ lead was cut down to one with 8:08 left in the quarter.
The game progressed on and the hatred and feistiness of both teams began to show. The game developed a more physical and high-tempo style of play, and the crowd was becoming a great asset for the Jazz. As the third quarter ended the Jazz rallied back and took the lead, 75-72.
The Lakers and Jazz entered the fourth quarter neck-and-neck, and all signs pointed to a close finish. Kobe Bryant started the final quarter on the bench, and the only starters on the court were Gasol and Odom. The Lakers would score on nearly every possession, but failed to prevent the Jazz from scoring on the defensive end. With 7:35 left in the game the Lakers were trailing 81-78, and momentum had not left the Utah Jazz.
Kobe Bryant was subbed into the game, and he quickly caught on fire from the field. Bryant was knocking down threes on one end of the court, but the team was unable to stop Williams on the other end. After hitting three straight threes Kobe helped the Lakers regain the lead, 93-91. He single handedly brought the Lakers back into the game, and extended the lead to five with a little over two minutes left to play.
However, the Jazz did not give up and they had a late spark to take the lead with under a minute left. The final stretch of the game was delayed several times due to a shot-clock malfunction, but it did not affect the Jazz’s momentum. Raja Bell went to the line and hit two free-throws, which gave the Jazz a four point lead with 11.6 seconds left in the game. The Jazz held on to the lead on won the game 102-96. The Lakers leading scorer was Kobe Bryant with 31, in a losing effort.