Lakers’ ad-libs fall flat in loss to Jazz

Reporting from Salt Lake City

The script was setting up perfectly for the Lakers, their protagonist finally alive after a moribund three quarters, just in time to save the night.

Then there was reality, Kobe Bryant unable to save his team after a ragged final minute involving too many entities to avoid a run-on sentence.

Ron Artest missed two shots, the shot-clock operator drew the ire of Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, and Pau Gasol changed up a play on his own, leading to a costly turnover in the Lakers’ 102-96 loss Friday to the Utah Jazz in front of a crowd that went from ornery to overjoyed.

A five-game winning streak was halted, merely an afterthought for a team that held a 19-point lead in the second quarter but couldn’t get out of its own way the rest of the night at EnergySolutions Arena.

Bryant had 31 points and was percolating in the fourth quarter with 14 in a row, but he couldn’t catch up to an unexpected pass from Gasol near the top of the key with 1:05 to play, Deron Williams scooping up the ball and feeding Raja Bell for an easy layup and 98-96 lead.


“I made the wrong decision,” Gasol said. “We talked about something on the timeout and I decided to do something different on the play. He wasn’t expecting it. I was supposed to fake [the pass] and take it to the rim myself. Didn’t happen.”

Bryant called it a miscommunication and Jackson said it “changed the context of the game.”

Jackson also wasn’t pleased with an off-balance 15-footer hoisted by Artest with 52.9 seconds left — “We’ve got to go back inside at that time” — and voiced one other grievance from the final minute.

“The 24-second clock operator,” he said, irritated by a stoppage in play because the Lakers were told the shot clock was “stuck.”

“What was going on there? That stopped a [fast] break on our part. That slowed us down. [ Derek Fisher] had a nice rhythm going on a transition with a three-point deficit. It stops the play, starts us out of bounds. That’s just not right.”

The Jazz (12-5) didn’t look right in the beginning, failing to stop pretty much every Lakers player except Fisher on the way to a 36-17 deficit.

But to use words that haven’t been written often this season, the Lakers’ second unit let them down, a cushy lead chopped up in surprisingly short order. The halftime score stood at 50-46, Lakers.

It only got worse for the Lakers (13-3), their shot chart as messy as ever going into the fourth quarter: Bryant was six for 17, Shannon Brown and Fisher were each one for six and Steve Blake was zero for six.

Meanwhile, Williams was crushing the Lakers in multiple ways, totaling 29 points and 12 assists and also raising Jackson’s eyebrows for other reasons.

“He’s tough and he gets away with a lot of stuff out there,” Jackson said. “He did some things tonight that were very unusual. Fish couldn’t run through the lane. His strength kind of kept us at bay.”

But Bryant felt the momentum as the Lakers led by three during a timeout with 1:33 to play, even engaging in banter with a fan holding a sign that said, “The only thing bigger than Kobe’s ego is the Laker payroll.”

Bryant laughed and said, “It’s huge,” holding his hands around his head and sticking out his tongue.

On this night, though, Jazz fans had the last laugh.