Lakers fall to Jazz, 123-75, and match their worst loss in franchise history
Utah Jazz guard Shelvin Mack (8) shoots over Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) during the second quarter.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant looks on before the start of his final game against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) goes to the basket as Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) defends during the second quarter.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) walks off the court at the end of the second quarter during his final game against the Jazz in Salt Lake City.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant, right, defends against Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) during the second quarter.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) drives around Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) during the first quarter.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
A fan holds a sign for Lakers forward Kobe Bryant during the second quarter.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) goes to the basket as Utah Jazz guards Rodney Hood (5) and Shelvin Mack, right, look on during the first quarter.(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)
Kobe Bryant has received plenty of memorable gifts on his farewell tour.
A slab of the Garden court from the Boston Celtics. An elite five-day Napa Valley vacation from Golden State. A giant framed Lower Merion High jersey from Philadelphia.
The Utah Jazz gave him an unusual bookend to his often incredible career.
He had four airballs against the Jazz as a rookie in a 1997 playoff game. The Lakers shot a major airball Monday in an embarrassing 123-75 loss that tied the largest in their 68-year history.
“What’ve we got, 15 wins on the season?” Bryant said, chuckling harshly while searching for the right words. “I mean, right? Losing by 48, winning 15 games in a season. It’s not like it’s something new for us. We’ve been getting drug all season.”
Only this was something new, something worse than all the other losses as the Lakers (15-59) pinwheel rapidly toward their worst season. They trailed by 53 and needed some late scoring to even match their 48-point loss to the Clippers in March 2014.
Rodney Hood, of all people, lit them up for 30 first-half points, only seven fewer than the Lakers. His eight three-pointers in the half had already tied a single-game record for Utah (37-37).
In the only pro-Lakers nugget, Bryant held Hood scoreless in the second half after switching to guard him, though this was hardly good news to Byron Scott.
“It’s a damn shame that our oldest player has to take the challenge,” the Lakers coach said. “Nobody else wanted to step up and take that challenge. That’s a shame that the oldest guy on our team, that’s leaving this league in eight games, was the one that had to kind of shut him down.”
Bryant, 37, didn’t provide much of a challenge on offense, making one of 11 shots for five points. Despite stopping Hood, he was a stunning minus-43 in the plus-minus column.
None of the Lakers’ young players did anything. D’Angelo Russell had five points on two-for-11 shooting. Julius Randle had two points and one rebound in 24 minutes. Jordan Clarkson made five of 18 shots at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Scott claimed he didn’t say a word to players after the game. He gave them a message a few minutes later through reporters.
“You’ve got to show this organization that you deserve to be here, that you understand what wearing that purple and gold is all about,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of guys in that locker room understand that right now.”
The cheers from Lakers fans in attendance, and some Jazz supporters, eventually carried the moment, but it was evident Bryant still had detractors here, retirement or not.
He was booed whenever he touched the ball, reminiscent of his final game in Boston, except Celtics fans gave him an incredibly warm ovation beforehand.
Opposing fans don’t have to embrace Bryant, especially if he punctured them enough times through the years. The Lakers eliminated Utah in the playoffs on the way to NBA Finals appearances in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
There were, however, more cheers than boos as Bryant left for good early in the fourth quarter. Utah was ahead, 100-60.
The gifts were given privately, certainly nicer than anything that happened oh-so-publicly to the Lakers.
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