Lakers Vs. Jazz: L.A. Overcomes Fatigue, Jazz For First Win

Kobe Bryant scored 26 while Pau Gasol chipped in 22 while helping the Los Angeles Lakers avoid their worst start in 33 years, winning 96-71 over the visiting Utah Jazz.

The game started slow -- the Lakers nursed a slim 18-17 lead after the first quarter -- which worked in the Lakers' favor, considering they were playing their third game in as many days while the Jazz were making their season debut. The pace eventually picked up, but the Lakers appeared to gain steam rather than growing tired, increasing their lead to 10 by halftime and 25 entering the final quarter, which the two teams played to a draw.

While many thought L.A.'s fatigue would be the determining factor, ultimately it came down to Utah's rust. Only two players for the Jazz cracked double-digits -- and none of the starters. Al Jefferson, in particular, never got on track, shooting just 2-16 from the field while finishing with four points to go with 10 rebounds in nearly 25 minutes. Devin Harris scored just five points to go with six assists in 25 minutes.

Were it not for Paul Millsap (18 points, eight rebounds in 27 minutes) and Josh Howard (10 points in almost 24 minutes) contributing off the bench, this game would have been even more lopsided.

In addition to leading all scorers, Bryant added eight rebounds and five assists for the Lakers, while Gasol grabbed nine boards with five blocked shots. Metta World Peace added 14 points and five rebounds off the bench. Had the Lakers fallen to 0-3, they would have posted their worst start since the 1978-79 season.

The Lakers will enjoy their first off-day of the season on Wednesday but it's back to work on Thursday when they host the Knicks. They host the Nuggets on New Year's Eve, by which time they should be at full strength with starting center Andrew Bynum returning from his four-game suspension. The Jazz, meanwhile, travel overnight to Denver where they'll face the Nuggets on Wednesday before returning home to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.

For the lates news and updates, check out SB Nation's NBA coverage. For more of a local angle, check out Lakers blog Silver Screen and Roll and Jazz blog SLC Dunk.

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