Rapid Reaction: Lakers 108, Jazz 94

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
10:05
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni has a different name for the wave of teams playing small ball around the league in recent years.

Rather than focus on the inherent disadvantage that shorter players have in a game that revolves around a 10-foot rim, D'Antoni chooses to emphasize the leg up those smaller guys have on their taller colleagues.

"Skilled ball" is what D'Antoni likes to call it.

Well, with Chris Kaman out (stomach flu) Tuesday, the Lakers gave a "skilled ball" lineup a nice long look. L.A. started two guards in Steve Nash and Steve Blake who are interchangeable at either point or shooting guard. They started two forwards in Nick Young and Shawne Williams who can play the 2, 3 or 4. And they had Pau Gasol at center, who not only has the midrange shooting game of a small forward but remains one of the best passing big men in the game.

L.A. worked in its bench commodities seamlessly on top of that, keeping up its versatile look by mixing in Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry, Jordan Farmar and even a little Jordan Hill, who filled in capably as a backup center.

While it was only a preseason game against a Utah Jazz team that is still finding its identity after losing Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in the offseason, it was bit of a statement for D'Antoni's preferred style.

Yes, the Lakers lost the game's best big man, Dwight Howard, but big isn't the only way you have to play.

Just ask the 6-foot-2 Farmar, who straight up blocked a shot by the Jazz's 7-1 Rudy Gobert in the fourth quarter.

Small ball, skilled ball, whatever you want to call it ball, can work.

How it happened: The Lakers trailed by six at the end of the first quarter but used a 33-19 second quarter to turn that deficit into a cushion in their favor headed into the half. Utah cut it back to a bucket in the fourth before L.A.'s bench poured it on to win by double digits.

What it means: With just a week left before the regular season begins at home against the Los Angeles Clippers, we still don't know what the Lakers' starting lineup will look like. Gasol, Nash and Young appear to have solidified their spots, but shooting guard and power forward are still up for grabs. Does Blake get the nod for having a strong spring last season but a rough-shooting preseason (another 0-for-2 game Tuesday), or does Jodie Meeks' hot night (5-for-9 for 15 points) launch him ahead? Will Kaman resume his starting spot that he played so well in once he's healthy, or does Shawne Williams' floor-spacing abilities (nine points, including a 2-for-5 mark from 3) earn him a place with the first five? How does Farmar factor into things?

Hits: Farmar scored all 20 of his points in the second half.

Nash's numbers were low again (five points and one assist in 14 minutes), but he appeared to be moving well with no ill effects from his injured ankle or sore neck.

L.A. shot a very respectable 10-for-25 on 3-pointers (40 percent).

Rookie Ryan Kelly went 5-for-5 from the foul line.

Misses: The Lakers had 17 turnovers leading to 18 points for Utah but actually came out on top in that battle as the Jazz coughed it up 21 times resulting in 25 L.A. points.

Stat of the game: The Lakers' bench outscored Utah's reserves 74-41.

Up next: The Lakers wrap up their preseason slate Friday in Anaheim against this same Jazz squad with a chance to even their exhibition record at 4-4 after going 0-8 a year ago.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0