Los Angeles head coach Mike Brown went nuclear on Zach Zarba, appearing to bump the official during a fourth-quarter argument, getting ejected and setting himself up for a possible suspension.
Utah’s bench outscored their Laker counterparts a whopping 49-12 on Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena for a 96-87 win. To top it all off, there were exactly 16 points from Los Angeles players not named Bryant, Gasol or Bynum.
This simply isn’t the Lakers that we’re used to seeing.
Phil Jackson, the Zen Master himself, would likely have never imploded like Brown did, fueling a 16-1 Utah run in the fourth quarter that all but sealed the Lakers’ fate. In doing so, Los Angeles found itself in a double-digit hole that Bryant couldn’t pull them out of, try as he might.
“I was trying to give our guys some juice,” Brown said. “I shouldn’t have gotten two technical fouls. I put our guys in a deeper hole than we were already in, and that probably cost the game. I apologized to our guys, I take the responsibility for that. I shouldn’t have done what I did because it put us in a deeper hole than what we were in.”
It’s clear that the Lakers have holes. Bryant is still Bryant. But he and the rest of the big three received little help on Saturday night. Los Angeles, despite being plus-sized in its frontcourt, hasn’t rebounded well.
Most glaringly, the Lakers’ bench has been awful. They lack a decent point guard for the second unit, and with Steve Blake out with an injury, that fact was exposed against the Jazz.
Los Angeles clearly misses Lamar Odom, who for so long was a sixth man supreme for the Lakers. He’s now playing for the Dallas Mavericks via trade, and Los Angeles sorely misses his length and athleticism coming off the bench.
Still, with Bryant around, this is a team that can’t be counted out, for his will and competitiveness alone.
“We just have to be patient,” Bryant said. “We’ve been in this situation before. We just have to stick with it. We have to focus on rebounding the basketball. We’re not doing a very good job of controlling the defensive glass.”