Everything about the meeting between the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night pointed to an L.A. win. The Jazz were playing without leading-scorer Al Jefferson, away from the team because of his grandmother's death. The Lakers were riding a five-game winning streak, tied for their longest winning streak of the season. Most importantly, the game was in L.A. where at 19-2 the Lakers had the best home record in the league at the start of the day. Meanwhile, the Jazz are one of the worst road teams in the league at just 5-16 coming into the game.
But you still have to play the games, and sure enough, the Jazz stunned the Lakers, handing them just their second home defeat since opening day, 103-99.
The Lakers were their own worst enemy in this game, committing 24 turnovers, an astonishing 17 of them in the first half alone. And while it was primarily the Laker miscues that kept the Jazz in the lead in the first half, the team clearly gained confidence as the game wore on.
The Jazz are in the midst of rebuilding on the fly, and prominently feature four first- or second-year lottery picks in their rotation. Sunday was something of a coming-out party for the Jazzy babies, as a pair of rookies each registered career highs of 17. Center Enes Kanter displayed his full repertoire of low post moves, scoring 17 on just seven shots. He made six of those, and also got to the free throw line seven times, making five. Meanwhile, guard Alec Burks got his 17 on a variety of moves on his way to a 7-of-10 shooting night -- he went to the basket, he made a three, he hit the offensive boards. And he was clutch, scoring 13 in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. Veteran Paul Millsap also had a big game, with 24 points, including a key three-point play down the stretch.
The Lakers got a dream game from Andrew Bynum -- and a nightmare from Kobe Bryant. Bynum scored 33 points on just 14 shots -- he was 12-of-14 from the field and 9-of-12 from the line. He also had 11 rebounds. He was simply unstoppable around the basket, and the Lakers should have gone to him more.
In stark contrast to Bynum, Bryant had one of the worst games of his career. He was a dreadful 3-of-20 from the field and compounded his terrible shooting with terrible ball-handling, committing seven turnovers. He did manage to score 15 points, thanks largely to going 8-of-9 from the line. But when you consider his shots, his turnovers and his free throws, Bryant used 31 possessions to score 15 points -- almost the complete opposite of Bynum's 33 points on 24 possessions. Bryant missed 17 shots for the game -- three more than Bynum took.
The Jazz improve to 23-22 with the win. It's the first time that Utah has been above .500 in a month, and they now find themselves just a half game behind Houston for the eighth best record in the Western Conference. The Lakers drop to 28-17, still first in the Pacific Division and third in the Conference.