Without Bryant, Lakers take the fifth
AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson SALT LAKE CITY – Maybe in another couple of years or so, after he has retired to the lake in Montana and left basketball for good, Phil Jackson can appreciate the significance of suffering only two five-game losing streaks in his 15 seasons as an NBA coach. But Jackson was in no mood to reflect Tuesday night at Delta Center. Not after the Lakers collapsed in the fourth quarter and fell 90-80 to the Utah Jazz, losing both games while Kobe Bryant served a suspension for last week’s flagrant foul. It was the Lakers’ fifth consecutive loss and the first time a Jackson-coached team has endured such a skid since March 1994, back when Michael Jordan was playing baseball. “That’s a lot of losses,” Jackson said. “I guess it is amazing, but to me it feels like it’s been a week and a half of losing games. This is not an easy part for our team here. These guys are suffering underneath it too.” The Lakers (15-16) have won just 6 of 18 games the past two seasons without Bryant. They were outrebounded 39-28 Tuesday, fell below .500 for the first time since Dec. 6 and out of the Western Conference’s top eight. “We just multiplied some mistakes in this last week and a half,” Jackson said, “and set ourselves right back to where we were a month ago.” The Lakers had lost their four previous games by a combined 13 points, but couldn’t stay close into the last minutes against the Jazz. They led by eight points in the third and trailed 73-70 as forward Lamar Odom checked back in with 7:35 left in the fourth. It was Odom who took over the game at the end of the first half, scoring 11 points in the second quarter and factoring into six of the Lakers’ last seven baskets before halftime. He appeared on his way to the triple-double he talked about prior to the game. But while the Lakers needed a big game out of Odom, the 6-foot-10 forward only could deliver a big quarter. He tried to post up Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko on his first play after returning in the fourth but had his shot smothered inside. At the other end, Mehmet Okur lost Odom for a layup as the Jazz went ahead 75-70. Odom finished with seven of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter but had two baskets in the last 1:30 with the game already decided. “We didn’t play around each other,” Odom said. “We didn’t help each other offensively or defensively.” Kirilenko, meanwhile, blocked four shots and had three steals in the fourth in addition to scoring seven points. The Jazz are 5-0 since Kirilenko returned from a bout with back spasms, and it was easy to see why Tuesday. His final line was astounding: 14 points, nine assists, eight rebounds, seven blocks, six steals and one turnover. The words of former Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich, who referred to Kirilenko last season as “Andrei Mutombo,” echoed afterward. “He was playing pingpong out there or volleyball or something,” Jackson said. Jackson was reluctant to fault Odom, who was the only Laker in double figures. Devean George and Smush Parker combined to shoot 5 of 19 and the Lakers failed to stop rookie guard Deron Williams, who finished with 19 points. “We had a mine shift there where guys went to natural instincts rather than playing basketball the way Lakers play basketball,” Jackson said. The one bright spot might have been rookie guard Von Wafer, who hit three shots and finished with nine points in 17 minutes. Wafer did take nine shots, though, and Jackson was not happy when he rushed one in the second half rather than looking inside first. “The second half he didn’t let himself get into the game,” Jackson said. “He just forced his way in the game.” Wafer launched shots early and often and had one mishap as he fumbled away a sure dunk, saying afterward he was “trying to rip the rim off.” The Lakers still have a ways to go to match the dark days of last season, when they lost eight consecutive games in March. But this is losing on an almost unprecedented scale for Jackson, who never has been part of a six-game skid as an NBA coach. His 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team, as a matter of comparison, lost only 10 games all season and never more than two in a row. “You hope you can stem the tide after a couple games that you lose and bounce back,” Jackson said. Ross Siler, (818) 713-3610 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!