Lakers blow away Jazz in fourth quarter
There are a few things that can beat the Lakers with Pau Gasol back in the lineup.
Boredom. Injuries. The Eastern Conference All-Stars.
The Utah Jazz did a pretty credible job for three quarters Wednesday before natural order took over in the Lakers’ 101-77 victory.
The Lakers won their 10th consecutive game, their ninth since Gasol returned from a hamstring injury, thanks to a 20-0 run in the fourth quarter that shifted the game swiftly in their favor.
Kobe Bryant finished with 27 points, Gasol had 19, and the Lakers are a victory away from their longest winning streak since taking 11 in a row near the end of the 2003-04 season.
They can thank their most thorough fourth quarter this season.
The Lakers led when it began, 73-71, and the Jazz moved within 74-73 on two free throws by Paul Millsap with 10:42 to play.
But Utah didn’t score again until a Deron Williams jump shot with 4:35 to play and stalled further until a seven-foot fadeaway by C.J. Miles with 45.3 seconds to play.
The Lakers outscored the Jazz, 28-6, and surrendered their fewest points in a quarter since holding the Clippers to three in the second quarter of a 95-68 victory in December 1999.
The Jazz made two of 18 shots and had nine turnovers in the final 12 minutes, including three shot-clock violations.
“We just imposed our will defensively,” Gasol said. “We were able to then pound them on the other end and I think their heads started to get lower and lower.”
An incredible night for the Lakers’ defense. Make that an incredible quarter.
“That was a real burst we had,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “That was an amazing quarter.”
The highlight: Jordan Farmar intercepted a Jazz pass, threw the ball ahead to Lamar Odom, who bounced the ball back between his legs to Ron Artest, who touch-passed the ball over to Farmar for a layup with 4:52 to play.
Even Sasha Vujacic got into the act, making a three-pointer with 9:20 to play, giving the Lakers an 80-73 lead. Artest made one a minute later, and the rout was on.
Ten victories in a row. Ten reasons why the Lakers (17-3) have the NBA’s best record.
“We’ll lose,” said Jackson, ever the realist. “We have a loss coming somewhere down the line. We’re just enjoying it while it happens.”
The day started off in a bad way for Bryant, who skipped the shoot-around to be with his family after an armed robbery took place in his Newport Coast neighborhood.
“Last text I read, he said, ‘I’m planning on playing,’ ” Jackson said before the game. “Back to normal, hopefully.”
Bryant played, which was bad news for the Jazz. He made 10 of 19 shots and also had eight assists and six rebounds.
He declined to talk to reporters after the game.
About the only thing Lakers fans could cheer in the first half was another highlight-worthy Shannon Brown dunk, this one off an alley-oop pass from Bryant with 3:35 left in the second quarter. The Lakers trailed at the half, 52-48 and were down by eight during the third quarter at 63-55.
Wednesday’s game represented the first time Joey Crawford refereed a Lakers game since Artest criticized him last week. Artest subsequently apologized. There were no incidents of note.
The Lakers have one more home game -- Friday against Minnesota -- before their ridiculously easy start to the season gets more challenging. Their game Saturday at Utah represents the first of five consecutive road games after playing 17 of their first 21 at Staples Center.
The Jazz will be waiting in Salt Lake City, undoubtedly thinking of the way Wednesday ended.
Ready to pack? The Lakers’ next game is Friday at Staples against Minnesota (7:30 p.m., FSW). After that, the Lakers play seven of the next nine on the road and when they show up in Utah on Saturday, they will have played 17 of the first 21 games at home: Saturday at Utah (12-9) Tuesday at Chicago (7-13) Dec. 16 at Milwaukee (10-11) Dec. 19 at New Jersey (2-20) Dec. 20 at Detroit (9-12) Dec. 22 vs. Okla. City (11-9) Dec. 25 vs. Cleveland (15-7) Dec. 26 at Sacramento (9-12) Dec. 28 at Phoenix (15-7)
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