Familiar theme: Jazz run past slumping Lakers

Jon Gold, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


LOS ANGELES -- When the Los Angeles Lakers lost four of five games to begin the season -- capped off by a defeat against the Utah Jazz in early November -- coach Mike Brown was fired days later.
Maybe new coach Mike D'Antoni should watch out.
The Jazz sent the Lakers to their fourth loss in five games -- again -- with a 117-110 win at Staples Center on Sunday night.
Facing a team that hoped to reinstate "Showtime" under D'Antoni, it was Utah that sprinted by Los Angeles, controlling the pace and forcing the Lakers' defense into mass confusion.
The Jazz had a 54-34 scoring advantage in the paint and a 19-4 edge in fast-break points as Los Angeles struggled with defensive rotations and spacing.
"We're giving up a lot of point in transition," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "Our half-court defense is OK. We're just giving up too many inside. We have to have better defensive balance. We allowed 54 points in the paint. ... That's a lot of layups."
Even though D'Antoni has been criticized in the past with the moniker Antoni -- as in, no "D" -- a Lakers lineup that includes Bryant and defensive menaces Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace was expected to be able to jell quickly.
Not on Sunday.
The Jazz jumped to an 8-0 lead, outscored the Lakers 35-24 in the second quarter to build a 60-51 halftime lead, then watched as the Lakers trimmed the deficit to three heading into the fourth quarter. Utah went up by as much as 15 in the fourth before Los Angeles cut the lead to as little as five, but Jazz forward Paul Millsap grabbed two clutch rebounds in the last two minutes to limit the Lakers' opportunities.
Utah shot a scorching 54.2 percent, staying remarkably consistent in each quarter, as six players scored in double figures. Millsap led the way with 24 points, and he also had nine rebounds. Mo Williams added 22 points and nine assists for the Jazz, who have won three straight. Center Al Jefferson contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter each had 14 points off the bench for Utah.
"We don't have superstars on this team," Jefferson said. "We have some great players, but we don't have a guy like Kobe who can just take over the game, so we have to play together on the defensive end and the offensive end."
Added D'Antoni: "We're not doing it, we're not running back," D'Antoni said. "We're not doing the little things. A lot of times, we get deflated. I don't want to be totally off -- I don't know the exact reason -- but it looks as if not enough energy is being put into phases of the game."
Los Angeles (9-12) shot well from the perimeter, connecting on 15 of 28 attempts from 3-point range, but the Lakers made just 17 of 42 shots in the paint.
Bryant shot just 9-for-24 from the field, but he made 12 of 14 foul shots to lead Los Angeles with 34 points. Jordan Hill had 17 points and Jodie Meeks 16 for the Lakers, who have lost two straight.
Utah (12-10) won the first matchup of the season series, 95-86, at EnergySolutions Arena on Nov. 7 despite a game-high 29 points from Bryant. Brown was fired following the loss, giving way to interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, when went 4-1. D'Antoni has led Los Angeles to a 4-7 record since he officially took over.
"We just have to continue to work on it every day," Howard said. "It's not something that happens overnight. Guys have to learn how to play with each other. It's going to take time."
NOTES: With Pau Gasol sidelined, Antawn Jamison got his fourth straight start, and he scored just three points. Jamison, who was averaging 8.2 points for the season, increased his output to 13 points per game in his first three starts of the season. ... Steve Nash (leg fracture) and Steve Blake (abdomen) remain out for the Lakers, though Nash could return soon. ... Utah's Jefferson (back) and Derrick Favors (plantar fasciitis) were considered game-time decisions, but Jefferson played while Favors sat. ... The teams split the series 2-2 the previous two seasons.

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