by Craig Kwasniewski
Trevor Ariza provided the necessary spark late in the fourth quarter as the Lakers held off a late Jazz rally on their way to a 113-100 victory. Ariza capped off a night of several key hustle plays with back-to-back steals late in the 4th quarter that led to highlight fastbreak points denying the Jazz any hope of a late rally. Every team needs that guy who's willing to sacrifice his body and scoring to do the small things and Ariza is clearly that guy for the Lakers. Tonight he he seemed one step ahead of the Jazz and got a hand in on every one of their passes. Anyway, here are a few other thoughts from my seat high up in section 316:
Kobe always kills Utah. Kobe had one of his better offensive nights of the year on his way to 40 points. But doesn't it always seem like he kills Utah? Two seasons ago he had 30 points in the 3rd quarter on his way to 52 and last spring he was able to score at will. Is he jealous of Kirilenko's deal with his wife? Is he a Mormon hater? All I know is that Utah's defensive scheme allows Kobe to roam free inside the freethrow line for an open J or a quick pass to any backdoor cutters.... which totally makes sense against the defending MVP. Utah just might want to mix in a double-team on Kobe every now and then.
Deron Williams almost single handedly rallied Utah. This game had shades of the 2008 Playoffs where Williams played possum in the first half and laid low from the perimeter only to ferociously attack the rim in the second half. Williams continued to drive and break down the Lakers interior defense the entire second half creating open jumpers for everyone and cutting a 20 point deficit all the way down to 3 several times. So why wait so long to take over? CLEARLY he can take Fisher to the rack any time so why not break down the Lakers defense early on so Utah's not trailing 37-20 after one quarter?
Lakers look more November than December. They're not playing with the same intensity as they did early in the season where every game seemed like a 30 point blowout, but the Lakers are learning how to play with more focus and effort. They aren't disappearing for long stretches like they did a few weeks ago. On the surface it looks like that team meeting really worked but beneath the surface the key has been Phil Jackson shaking up the lineup and playing Kobe when it appears that the bench is struggling offensively. Also Ariza and Vujacic, the Lakers most active defenders, are playing more minutes especially now with Farmar out.
Please no Ty Lue!!!!!! I can't type enough exclamation points but the Lakers can *NOT* trade for Tyronn Lue!!!!!!! Rumors persist that with Farmar's injury the Lakers ate looking to shore up backcourt dept by trading Chris Mihm's corpse to Milwaukee for Ty Lue. Nooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! Do the Lakers need a crappy point guard who has waived off two of the game's best closers down the stretch? Seriously, playing with the Jordan-led Wizards, Lue countlessly decided that he alone was a better option with the game on the line and instead of Michael Jordan... and OF COURSE he missed every time! Lue has limited offensive skills with unlimited confidence which makes him the worst player ever. Just in case Lakers fans need any reminder, here is Tyronn Lue's greatest moment as a NBA player (A.I. stepping over him in the 2001 NBA Finals):