Utah Jazz fall apart quickly in season-opening loss to Lakers
Los Angeles • Coach Tyrone Corbin cautioned against overreacting. Center Al Jefferson said the Jazz must stick together. Devin Harris and Gordon Hayward know Utah missed way too many makeable shots.
But after the lifeless Jazz were blown out 96-71 by the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night at Staples Center, there was no getting around a single fact: Utah's 2011-12 debut was historically bad.
The Jazz set a franchise-low for points scored during a season opener, according to the team's public relations staff, eclipsing a 37-year-old mark. The then-New Orleans Jazz lost 89-74 to New York on Oct. 17, 1974.
Utah (0-1) barely fought off two other inglorious franchise lows. The Jazz shot just 32.2 percent (29 of 90) from the field Tuesday, edging a 29.3 floor percentage that's an all-time worst. In addition, Utah's 25-point deficit was just one point better than a 26-point loss to Dallas on Oct. 31, 1986 that holds the record as the Jazz's biggest season-opening loss.
Corbin wasn't surprised his rebuilding team danced with futility after watching Utah miss a staggering variety of open looks. And as the clanking shots mounted, the Jazz's defense fell apart.
"The [Lakers] came out and they were the aggressor," Corbin said. "They ran the ball down the floor and got the ball where they wanted to and we didn't get the shots to fall in that we wanted to, so we pressed a little bit."
Utah appeared unfocused, unmotivated and unprepared just minutes into the fallout. Now, the Jazz have entered a lockout-shortened 66-game campaign staring at unforgiving NBA life from the bottom up.
"We just have to find some continuity, some rhythm, where everybody knows what everybody likes to do," Utah forward C.J. Miles said. "I don't think we've gotten to that point where everybody knows where everybody likes to be."
Down by 29 during the fourth quarter, Utah watched early-game miscommunication turn into in-game yells, and the faces of everyone from Raja Bell to Gordon Hayward tightened.
Bell gathered the Jazz's other four starters together during an extended timeout, raising his voice and attempting to motivate his teammates.
But the Lakers (2-1) nullified the chatter with action, continuing to roll and turning a 25-8 run to start the third quarter into a total rout.
By the start of the fourth, Jefferson sat on the bench. The Jazz's leading average scorer and rebounder last season had his right knee heavily wrapped, his face was in his hands and he was 2 of 16 from the field.
Nothing was working for Utah, and the Jazz were left to watch a near frame-by-frame reply of the worst moments from a bitter 2010-11 campaign.
Jefferson said the "basketball Gods" weren't on his side Tuesday, adding he was already past the loss by the time Utah's locker room opened to the media. But after the Jazz struggled through exhibition play and entered the regular season searching for everything from a true No. 1 player to a team identity, he acknowledged the blowout to the Lakers was a wake-up call.
"No need to panic," he said. "We know what we got to do. â¦ We just had to be better than what we was. It's a wake-up call, but it's not the end of the world."
Paul Millsap came off the bench to lead Utah with a team-high 18 points, while Josh Howard added 10. Rookie center Enes Kanter recorded 11 rebounds.
Kobe Bryant's 26 points topped the Lakers.
R In short • The Jazz show little life during their 2011-12 season opener.
Key stat • Utah shoots just 26 percent (13 of 50) during the first half.
P Jazz at NuggetsWednesday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT
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