Rapid Reaction: Lakers 111, Jazz 106
October, 25, 2013
By Dave McMenamin
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A point guard who has played less than 20 minutes per game during the preseason because of nagging injuries, a shooting guard who has played point guard for nearly the entirety of his 11-year career, a small forward who has played shooting guard for most of his seven seasons in the league, a power forward who was out of the NBA entirely last season and a center coming off a summer surgical procedure on each knee?
Yes, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Nick Young, Shawne Williams and Pau Gasol could certainly be the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting lineup come opening night next Tuesday.
The Lakers went with that first five for the second consecutive game, closing out their preseason slate with a 111-106 win against the Utah Jazz at the Honda Center.
Will that be the same group to tip things off against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday?
"I don’t know," Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said before the game. "I mean, it’s a definite possibility."
The most significant detail about the lineup looking like that, of course, is that it means no Kobe Bryant.
Bryant said this week that he has scaled back his workouts after pushing his Achilles rehabilitation hard while the team was in China. He previously told reporters that he will need three solid weeks of conditioning and basketball activity once he returns to practice before he would consider himself ready for game action. If Bryant isn’t on the court Oct. 29 and sticks to his three-week ramp up plan, then we’re suddenly talking about a mid-to-late November return at the earliest.
"[The timeline] went from everywhere from October to January, so nobody knows," D’Antoni said. “I think he’ll be ahead of schedule from whatever they said, but, again, it’s something -- a little bit like Steve Nash -- you just don’t know until it happens. You keep working with it; he’s making progress and he’ll be back as soon as he can. No use worrying about it. You only worry about it when people don’t work hard or are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. That’s not a problem."
If this hodgepodge starting lineup for the Lakers looks anything like it did in the third quarter, however, when it played the entire 12 minutes together and outscored the Jazz by 17, then maybe the Lakers won’t have as much of a problem waiting for Bryant to come back as some might think.
How it happened: L.A. raced out to an 11-point lead in the second quarter, largely thanks to the effort of Jordan Farmar and the second unit before D’Antoni subbed back in the starters en masse and Utah stormed back ahead 53-51 at the half. The Lakers redeemed themselves in the third, however, led by Blake's 13 points in the quarter. The Lakers’ bench kept up the pressure in the fourth to hold on for the win.
What it means: L.A. got through the preseason with a 4-4 record and no major new injuries to their core players after an 0-8 record a preseason ago. All in all, a successful exhibition slate.
Hits: Blake, he of the 0-for-10 exhibition line against Sacramento, went 7-for-7 from the field and 5-for-5 from 3-point range to go along with seven rebounds and four assists.
Gasol neared a triple-double with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists.
Nash’s line might have been underwhelming (7 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers) but the fact that he played 29 minutes and was the floor commander when L.A. shot 13-for-19 as a team in the third quarter was encouraging.
Young had a very Swaggy P-like line of 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting with just one assist.
Those dunks by Jordan Hill and Wes Johnson in the fourth quarter.
Misses: Chris Kaman missed his second straight preseason game while trying to overcome a stomach virus. D’Antoni said he expects him back at practice Sunday.
Stat of the game: Blake’s third-quarter line of 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting overall, 3-for-3 from 3 and four rebounds.
Up next: The real thing, Tuesday at Staples Center against the Clippers. Should be fun.