The Utah Jazz handed Kobe Bryant the biggest loss of his career

Ball Don't Lie
Kobe did not have much reason to change his facial expression. (AP/Rick Bowmer)
Kobe did not have much reason to change his facial expression. (AP/Rick Bowmer)

The Utah Jazz welcomed Kobe Bryant to Vivint Smart Home Arena for his final game in Salt Lake City with what have now become the customary trappings of the Los Angeles Lakers legend's farewell tour: locally appropriate gifts (in Utah, that means national-park and skiing hook-ups) and a tastefully produced tribute video. After tipoff, though, they set about sending the Black Mamba packing with another, far less friendly parting gift.

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The Jazz absolutely destroyed the Lakers on Monday, blowing L.A. out by the "wait, is that a typo?" score of 123-75. The 48-point final margin ties the largest victory in Jazz franchise history, matching a 144-96 pummeling of the Milwaukee Bucks in 1990. It also ties the largest loss in the history of the Lakers organization, a low-water mark set just over two years ago in a 142-94 shellacking at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Bryant missed that Clippers debacle due to injury. Before Monday, the biggest regular-season Laker loss in which Kobe had played came in March of 2007, a 36-point defeat to the Dallas Mavericks; the biggest overall came in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, which the Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics by 39. That means Monday night was the most lopsided loss Kobe Bryant has ever suffered in purple and gold ... and he scored five points on 1-for-11 shooting in 28 minutes in the process. Kind of a rough way to say goodbye to a city, huh? (Kobe will get one more crack at the Jazz on April 13 back at Staples Center; we'll have to see if he can exact a measure of vengeance in the final game of his Hall of Fame 20-year career.)

After picking off a Derrick Favors pass, Jordan Clarkson gave the Lakers a 2-0 lead with a layup at the 11:07 mark; the Jazz went on to score the next 17 points, leading by double-figures for the final 43 minutes and 43 seconds of game time. This was a competitive game for maybe two minutes.

Utah swingman Rodney Hood was the tip of Quin Snyder's spear. The Duke product feasted on the Lakers' woeful defense, canning his first five shots (four 3-pointers and a long pull-up 2) for 14 first-quarter points before really getting it going in the second. Hood scored 30 points on 11-for-13 shooting, including a scorching 8-for-9 mark from long distance, in just 20 minutes of floor time in the first half. The Lakers, as a team, managed just 34 points on 15-for-45 shooting through the first 24 minutes, as Utah headed into intermission up by 27.

Hood wouldn't score again; Bryant took over the assignment on the second-year wing, face-guarding him all over the floor in an attempt to prevent him from even catching the ball. Even so, the Jazz kept getting absolutely everything they wanted against an L.A. defense that continues to suffer from the same elementary breakdowns that plagued the Lakers early on in the season and that entered Monday dead last in the league in points allowed per possession.

Favors (14 points, nine rebounds), Rudy Gobert (eight points, 19 rebounds, four assists, two blocks) and Trevor Booker (17 points, five rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench) dominated on the interior. Butler bros Gordon Hayward (11 points, six assists, three rebounds) and Shelvin Mack (17 points, five assists, three rebounds) handled the playmaking duties. Utah was never threatened on the way to its seventh win in nine games, which improved its record to 37-37 and gave the seventh-seeded Jazz a one-game edge on the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks in the race for the final two spots in the Western Conference playoff bracket.

The Jazz shot 55.4 percent from the floor and drilled 13 of 22 3s through the first three quarters, grinding the Lakers into a pulp and taking a 40-point lead into the fourth quarter. The only questions that remained included whether Utah would push the advantage enough to make this the biggest win in the NBA this season (rest easy, "Spurs' 51-point thrashing of the Sixers") and whether the final margin would make Jazz and Laker history (mission accomplished).

After the loss, Lakers coach Byron Scott — as is his wont — questioned his non-Kobe players' steel and sand:

It is perhaps worth noting that there hasn't been a whole lot worth being proud of for the Lakers under Scott's leadership. L.A. is now a putrid 36-120 with him at the helm, and after Monday's loss, Scott's overall record in parts of 15 seasons as a head coach is now 425-651, giving him sole possession of an ignominious bit of NBA coaching history:

Oh, yeah — I forgot about that. Not only was this Kobe's final game in Salt Lake City, it was also Scott's 55th birthday. That is one sad birthday, my dude.

Oh, well. At least some Lakers fans got what they were looking for on Monday, when Kobe decided to cap his evening by tossing his shooting sleeve into the Utah crowd:

... but on this ramshackle evening, even that lovely sharing of a souvenir had to get weird.

Whatever that smelled like, it probably couldn't stink any worse than the Lakers did. Or, at least, I really hope it didn't.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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