Strolling through Staples Center for a leisurely Sunday afternoon walk in the park, the Los Angeles Lakers easily defeated the Utah Jazz, 113-100. Kobe Bryant had the Lakers sprinting out of the starting blocks as he played the role of distributor, dishing off for assists to Trevor Ariza (21 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists) and Shannon Brown (9 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists) who got the bulk of the back-up PG minutes after Derek Fisher picked up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game. Brown continues to excel in his new role off the bench, connecting on all three of his three point attempts. The Lakers closed the first quarter comfortably ahead, 30-19. With Bryant on the bench to start the 2nd period, Lamar Odom (13 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocked shots) and Andrew Bynum (7 points, 3 rebounds in 20 minutes) led the squad in the quarter, scoring the first 12 points and extending the lead to 42-29. The Jazz managed to cut into the lead multiple times, but could never really close the gap. The Lakers ended the first half ahead with a resounding 22 point margin, 62-40.
Utah came out more offensively aggressive in the 3rd quarter, scoring the first 9 points as the Lakers allowed the Jazz to creep back into the game. Lackadaisical play, or more likely boredom set in with the team, as the Jazz outscored the Lakers, 33-24 in the period. With their halftime lead trimmed to 86-73, Pau Gasol (20 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals) and Kobe (24 points, 8 assists, 2 steals) both got untracked and extended the lead each time the Jazz cut the lead to single digits. Carlos Boozer led the way for the Jazz (27 points, 9 rebounds), followed by Deron Williams, who struggled from the field (4-14, 16 points) but managed to find open teammates with a career playoff best 17 assists. Pau Gasol fouled out with 3:31 left in the game. But with both Kobe and Trevor putting the finishing touches on the Jazz, the Lakers were able to stave off any last minute Jazz heroics. For their part, the Bench Mob outscored the Jazz reserves, 33-31, but other than Brown and Odom, saw very limited production from Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar (5 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds combined). Josh Powell provided a quick six points in a brief 4 minutes of action. But Sasha (12 minutes, 0-2) continued his good defense on Kyle Korver (7 points) and Farmar (4 minutes, 0-1, 1 blocked shot) played within himself while out on the court, assisting to Pau on a 2-on-3 fast break that resulted in a bucket and the foul.
The production from Ariza was a welcome surprise. And in a game where Bynum, Gasol and Odom were in constant foul trouble, Trevor took advantage of Utah’s collapsing defense inside and punished the Jazz from long distance (3-4 from beyond the arc). The highlights of the game were a fast break reverse dunk by Trevor Ariza, who blew by Boozer and brought the sell-out crowd to their feet, and a cross-over move into the key by Kobe, who emphatically dunked the ball while picking up the foul from an undercutting Paul Millsap. Game 2 in this first round match-up continues on Tuesday night.