Meaningless or not, the Los Angeles Lakers routed the Utah Jazz at Staples Center, 125-112 in their regular season finale to end with a 65-17 record. Next up is this same Jazz squad whom they’ll meet in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The game started harmlessly enough, with both teams conserving their energy and resting key starters. Kobe Bryant spent more time on the bench in the first half than in the game due to early foul trouble. But Phil Jackson was content to leave the bench in the game and after the first half horn sounded, the Lakers held a slim, 56-55 lead. Play accelerated in the 3rd quarter as both Deron Williams and Kobe picked up double technicals after Williams was called for charging. Both players continued to jaw at one another and this proved to be the boost that the Lakers needed. Shifting into 5th gear, the Lakers picked up the pace and attacked the Jazz from all angles on the floor. The treys were dropping (8-13) and the inside game was dominated by both Andrew Bynum (22 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocked shots) and Pau Gasol (20 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists). Kobe added 16 points (12 in the 3rd quarter) to go along with his 5 assists. The Bench Mob benefitted from the extra time on the floor and outscored their Jazz counterparts, 53-46. Lamar Odom paced the bench with 16 points and 4 assists. Sasha Vujacic added 15 points (3-4 beyond the arc) and 3 assists. Shannon Brown continued his stellar play and contributed 9 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. In all, the Lakers dished for 39 assists, shot 56% from the field, and recorded 8 blocked shots. Deron Williams led the Jazz with 25 points and 13 assists. Andrei Kirilenko added 20 points off the bench, Carlos Boozer posted 16 points and 9 rebounds, and Ronnie Brewer chipped in 14 points.
Utah was fighting to get out of the 8th spot in the Western Conference to avoid facing the top-seeded Lakers. A win tonight would have put the pressure on Dallas, with Utah holding the tie-breaker if the Mavs lost. But all of that is moot now as the Jazz were clearly outmatched in every key category. Utah played without starting center Memet Okur, but with the Bynum-Gasol tandem ramping up to mid-season form, the Jazz appear lost for answers to slow down the Lakers inside game. Deron Williams continues to be a problem for the Lakers guards, but with the recent addition of Shannon Brown into the rotation, Williams had to work hard for his points. Williams also appeared frazzled by the Lakers physical play. And with a healthy Bynum protecting the paint, the Jazz often settled for outside shots. Boozer in particular looked slow of foot, and committed numerous reach in fouls when he was caught out of defensive position. The Lakers, with the victory, march into the playoffs with a full head of steam. The swagger is back, the killer instinct made an appearance, and even Jordan Farmar got back into the groove.