Jazz win streak goes from nine to none in blowout loss to Lakers
Whatever statement they were hoping to make heading into the All-Star break, the Jazz found themselves on the receiving end of one made by the Los Angeles Lakers on a night Kobe Bryant was nothing more than a whisper at EnergySolutions Arena.
With Bryant never leaving the locker room Wednesday with his sprained left ankle, the Lakers still ended the Jazz's nine-game winning streak with a 96-81 victory, sending what was the Western Conference's hottest team into the break on a chilly note.
The Jazz had been averaging 111 points a game during their streak, as well as 106.5 points at home this season, before falling flat against a Lakers team that has eliminated them from the playoffs the past two seasons.
They shot 44 percent, missed 12 free throws, trailed by 13 at the end of the first quarter and found few answers all game. It was the Jazz's first loss since Jan. 17 at Denver and first loss at home since Jan. 4 against New Orleans, snapping a 10-game streak.
"We had a great streak," Deron Williams said. "We lost against a good team. Regardless of Kobe Bryant, they're still a good team and they came in here and played well and beat us. Give them credit for being a tough team."
Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were a double-barreled force in Bryant's absence, with Odom totaling 25 points, 11 rebounds and finishing four three-point plays. Gasol had 22 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks as the Lakers won their third straight without Bryant.
An hour before tipoff, Bryant was sprawled out on a trainer's table in the visiting locker room. Much of the Jazz's attention seemed focused on whether Bryant would play, though coach Jerry Sloan didn't want to hear afterward about how the uncertainty affected his team.
"Did that make them tired?" Sloan asked. "I'm serious. That shouldn't make you tired. That's hard for me to understand.
"We had a nice little run going, things were going pretty well for us and I was proud of what we had done, but sometimes it gets a little tough and that's when you've got to show some toughness to fight through it. We didn't show it until after the game was about over."
Sloan questioned what happened to the Jazz's energy between Tuesday's victory over the Clippers and Wednesday's loss in the back-to-back set. Williams called it a "soft" effort and said the Lakers "looked like they wanted the game more."
The Jazz had experienced slippage in recent games despite extending their winning streak. They struggled to put away a Denver team missing Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups and trailed by 11 points in the third quarter against the Clippers before rallying.
That set the stage for a deflating night against the defending champions. The Lakers, who also played without starting center Andrew Bynum (bruised hip), used a 12-0 run filled with exclamation-point plays to close the first quarter with a 31-18 lead.
Starting in place of Bryant, Shannon Brown warmed up for the dunk contest after a C.J. Miles turnover and Odom had his third three-point play of the quarter putting back a Luke Walton miss.
Gasol blocked Carlos Boozer and tossed in a layup off a touch pass from Brown. Gasol then blocked Ronnie Brewer as the Lakers pushed ahead, with Farmar nailing a three-pointer to beat the buzzer and pumping his fist.
The Lakers stretched their lead to 42-26 in the second quarter as Farmar connected on another three-pointer and Sasha Vujacic stripped Miles, then flipped a behind-the-back pass to D.J. Mbenga for a dunk on the break.
Trailing 56-41 at halftime, the Jazz opened the second half with Boozer and Mehmet Okur missing four free throws. The biggest cheers all night came when Kyle Korver entered the game, but Korver missed two jumpers and committed a turnover.
Farmar had 18 points and hit four three-pointers off the bench for the Lakers while Williams finished a rebound shy of a triple-double with 11 points and 10 assists.
Williams will be the Jazz's lone representative at this weekend's All-Star Game in Dallas. The Jazz (32-19) reached the break three games ahead of last season's 51-game pace of 29-22, having climbed from out of playoff position to third in the Western Conference.
But the Jazz will return from the break with a four-game trip beginning Tuesday in Houston and must play 19 of their last 31 games on the road. Only four games separate the third-through eighth-place teams in the conference standings.
"We're going to remember the game," Williams said of Wednesday's loss. "They came in here and beat us in our building and we're going to see them some more this year. It's definitely a tough game for us to swallow but we had a great run."
The Jazz fall flat against the Lakers and see their nine-game winning streak come to an end.