In a fickle, inconstant world, it's nice to know that there are some things you can rely on.
The Jazz making Lakers players look much better than they actually are is one of those things.
This is not a good Lakers roster. They trotted out a lineup of Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Nick Young, Shawne Williams and Pau Gasol. Against that crew, the Jazz leaped out to a 9-0 lead, en route to a 26-18 first quarter. Enes Kanter had two very nice buckets, including a gorgeous pick-and-roll with Gordon Hayward. Even Richard Jefferson got into the act with an open 3.
But when Los Angeles sent Wesley Johnson, Jordan Farmar (remember him?), Jodie Meeks and Jordan Hill out to match up against the likes of Justin Holiday, Lester Hudson, Mike Harris and former Laker Brian Cook...well, there was trouble. A 10-0 Laker run to start the second quarter ended up with a 51-45 Los Angeles lead at halftime.
Alec Burks helped keep the Jazz in the game in the third quarter, with assistance from Cook, but Farmar kept the Lakers in front until the fourth, when Cook decided to go full #COLO. He made all three free throws on a 3-point attempt, promptly sank a long three on the next play, grabbed a rebound, missed a jumper, missed another three, and fouled Xavier Henry, all within a two-minute span early in the final quarter.
From there, Farmar and Cook took turns shooting like they had a box of Mighty Wings at stake. Farmar scored 15 of his 20 points in the final 10 minutes, while Cook made back-to-back threes to keep the Jazz close. In the end, Utah closed the final 4:50 without a point and the Lakers pulled away easily.
- Gordon Hayward had a decent, well-rounded game, finishing with 15 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals. He didn't shoot well (5-15), but he had a few really encouraging pick-and-roll possessions with Kanter and generally looked like the most comfortable Jazzman on the floor.
- Richard Jefferson looked positively spry, with 10 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists on 4-5 shooting in 22 minutes. He won't be facing Steve Blake and Nick Young on the perimeter every night, but that kind of performance is something the Jazz can build on. He's been more energetic in the preseason than I gave him credit for. I still don't want him starting, and once Brandon Rush and Marvin Williams return, I don't really see a role for him. But for now, he's earned a bit of begrudging respect from me.
- Derrick Favors rebounds the ball so effortlessly, so gracefully. He had 13 boards tonight and could have had more if he had played more. The whole team rebounded admirably, beating the Lakers 46-38 on the glass. Then again, L.A. doesn't have much height outside of Pau Gasol.
- Alec Burks broke out of his shooting slump with an efficient 14 points on 5-11 shooting. He added 6 assists, with only one turnover in 29 minutes. That's certainly more hopeful than...
- ...John Lucas III: The Lucasening, who finished with 8 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound and 1 steal in 27 minutes. Two assists in 27 minutes is absolutely unacceptable for a starting point guard in the NBA. Granted, he was never intended to BE the starting point guard. But someone on this roster surely can do better. (Indeed, "someone" did: the aforementioned Burks. Also, Scott Machado had four dimes in 15 minutes. I'm just saying.)
- Team defense was a huge problem any time Favors was off the floor. Perimeter rotations were slow, allowing Farmar, Jodie Meeks and Wesley Johnson to fire at will, and Jordan Hill beat the Jazz backup bigs to the rim multiple times. To be fair, many of the players getting beat will not be on an NBA roster in a week or two. But they surely could have done better against relatively weak opponents.
- I don't care about your points of emphasis, NBA refs. Calling your new stupid "team that scored can't touch the ball" delay of game rule when the player is ACTIVELY FACILITATING the speeding up of the game by tossing the ball to the ref is ludicrous. Also, tone it down on the moving screen calls. Poor Enes Kanter looks like someone murdered a kitten every time he gets called for one.
- Brian Cook. I don't even.
We'll talk more about this game in my Downbeat tomorrow morning, methinks. Final word: an entertaining, winnable game, one the Jazz probably could have won if healthy and not playing training-camp fodder, with some encouraging signs. Good enough for me at the moment.