Third time is charm for Lakers in 96-71 win


It was kind of confusing, sure, but the Lakers were playing their third game in as many days, not the Utah Jazz.

The scoreboard certainly didn’t show it, the Lakers drubbing Utah, 96-71, the first breather for the franchise since training camp began.

It prevented a lot of uncomfortable issues from floating around Staples Center on Tuesday, including increased whispers of the Lakers’ demise and the possibility of their first three-game skid to start a season since 1978.


PHOTOS: Lakers vs. Jazz

Metta World Peace would have none of it, flying through the air for a dunk (!) and later serving as inspiration for the first Staples Center chant of “We want World Peace.” It was short-lived.

The Lakers can finally rest after their first back-to-back-to-back situation since the last lockout-shortened season in 1999.

Good news for the Lakers: They don’t have another set of three in a row this season. Even better news for them: Andrew Bynum has one more game before the end of his league-imposed suspension.

The Lakers didn’t even have to worry about a fourth-quarter fade after experiencing two in their first two games, falling to Chicago despite a late six-point lead and fizzling against Sacramento after pulling within two in the final minutes.

The Lakers led at the end of the third quarter, 71-46, holding Utah to 28.2% accuracy at the time and Al Jefferson to stunningly woeful two-of-16 shooting.

Point totals for Utah’s starters were abysmal: Derrick Favors (eight points), Gordon Hayward (seven), Raja Bell (six), Devin Harris (five) and Jefferson (four).

“We were more consistent tonight and didn’t have to think about it as much,” Kobe Bryant said of the Lakers’ defense. “It was natural for us tonight.”

Bryant almost outscored Utah’s starters by himself, continuing to shake off a torn ligament in his right wrist and finishing with 26 points. Pau Gasol had 22 points and nine rebounds.

Troy Murphy had an unusual stat line — no points, six fouls, 11 rebounds — and World Peace continued his rare scoring spree, following up a 19-point game against Sacramento with 14 against Utah.

He drew a rush of appreciation from the crowd by faking a three-point attempt, driving past Favors and dunking, his biggest shot since … Ron Artest’s three-pointer in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals?

“That took all my energy,” World Peace said, smiling. “I won’t be doing that again.”

The Lakers came into the game on a 16-1 roll against the Jazz at Staples Center, including an 8-0 mark in playoff games. The run of success didn’t look like it would be extended easily when the Lakers led midway through the second quarter by the ugly score of 27-22.

But Utah was worse, shooting 26% in the first half, Jefferson making two of 14 shots as the Lakers took a 41-31 halftime edge.

Lakers Coach Mike Brown had professed the need to play better defense, and here it was. The Jazz made 29 of 90 shots (32.2%) as the Lakers led by as many as 29.

“To hold a team to 32% and 71 points in an NBA game, I don’t care who you’re playing, you’re doing something right on that end of the floor,” Brown said. “It was a fun game for me to watch.”

Brown said the players could stay home Wednesday, their first day off since training camp began Dec. 9.

They’ll take it, gladly, a difficult part of their schedule now behind them.