These banged up Los Angeles Lakers just can’t catch a break.
The only thing “caught” on Friday night was Gordon Hayward‘s missed layup on the final possession, which Derrick Favors secured with both hands and slammed back a dunk that led the Utah Jazz to victory.
Playing without Pau Gasol, Los Angeles dropped a tough battle in Salt Lake City, 105-103, and fell to 13-17 on the season. Gasol did not make the trip to Utah on Friday, as he has been battling an upper respiratory infection, a setback he has been dealing with most of the last week. Instead, it was Chris Kaman starting in his place in the frontcourt.
Kaman played a terrific first half, scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds, but didn’t have much of a sighting in the second half of play. Playing 30 minutes of action, Kaman finished with 19 points and 10 boards while shooting 7-for-11 from the field. It’s hard to understand why he had little to no offensive involvement in the final two quarters of play after proving he could rise to the occasion and help with this depleted roster.
The fourth quarter turned out to be a hectic back-and-forth frenzy, most notably between Utah’s leading scorer, Hayward, and Lakers’ Jodie Meeks.
Hayward capitalized on a two-on-five fast break with 6:18 left in the game, by throwing down a massive dunk over the contest of Robert Sacre. As the quarter wound down to less than three minutes remaining, Meeks tied the game at 99 with a wide open look from 3-point range with 2:48 remaining, as Marvin Williams was late getting a hand in his face.
On another late transition opportunity, rookie Trey Burke found Hayward all alone on the right wing for a 3-point dagger to break the tie at 99. The Jazz led 102-99 with 1:58 remaining.
After the Lakers showed their resiliency and managed to tie up the game yet again at 103-103, the Jazz found themselves with the final possession to seal it in front of their home crowd. Sure enough, Hayward was looking to prove why he’s capable of being “the man” in Utah. He drove right, with Sacre tightly defending, and put up a right-handed layup that rolled off the rim.
Woeful for the Lakers, Derrick Favors was right there, in perfect position, and slammed home the eventual game-winning dunk that was uncontested. Lakers’ Jordan Hill, who was been this team’s heart and soul when it comes to boxing out and pulling down crucial rebounds, was too occupied on the play. Hill had reacted to Hayward’s drive and collapsed to try and be the rim protector, which cost him the opportunity to box out Utah’s athletic Favors. Favors finished with 14 rebounds and 18 points on the night, his 10th double-double of the year.
Nick Young, who came off the bench, was the Lakers’ best contributor of the game. Young scored 21 points on an impressive 58.8 percent efficiency from the field (10-of-17).
It was actually mind-blowing just how close these two teams were on Friday. Both the Lakers and Jazz connected on 40 field goals and 16 free throws. However, it was the Jazz that nailed two extra 3-pointers (9-of-23) compared to the Lakers’ 7-0f-23.
Perhaps the only decent news the Lakers can take away from this outing was the play of point guard Jordan Farmar, who returned on Christmas Day after battling a serious hamstring issue. Farmar scored 16 points, dished seven assists and grabbed seven rebounds. This came after shooting just 1-of-7 against Miami in Wednesday’s loss.
Altogether, Farmar feels he is almost at the level that he needs to play at for the Lakers to succeed:
“I felt better down the stretch,” Farmar said. “But my legs were a little heavy and I missed some shots short that I should have made to help us out. I’m going to stay aggressive, keep working and get it back soon so I can help this team take it to the next level.”
“The next level” is definitely what Los Angeles needs at this point, as this loss was the Lakers’ fourth straight defeat (Warriors, Suns, Heat, Jazz). They finished up a tough week and will now travel back home to Hollywood to prepare for a four-game home stand, against competition they know they can pull out some much needed wins against. The next four may be the most crucial of the entire year, considering the Lakers hit the road from Jan. 7-10 for intense road games at the Mavericks, Rockets and Clippers.
Los Angeles now sits 3.5 games back from the Western Conference’s eighth seed in the playoff hunt and that can’t be encouraging to fans knowing Kobe Bryant will be out another three to five weeks and the team is yet to embark on their annual “Grammy road trip,” a seven-game set of away games in mid-January. Brace yourselves, fans of the purple and gold. Luck might strike, or things may get extremely ugly.
Lakers’ next four matchups:
Sunday, Dec. 29 vs. Philadelphia 76ers (8-20)
Tuesday, Dec. 31 vs. Milwaukee Bucks (6-23)
Friday, Jan. 3 vs. Utah Jazz (9-23)
Sunday, Jan. 5 vs. Denver Nuggets (14-14)
You can contact Anthony Young via email at: [email protected], or on Twitter: @YoungNBA. He will happily respond to any comments, questions, or thoughts. Thanks for the read.