Kobe Bryant looks at his hands after failing to put up a last-second shot… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Wasn't Utah already eliminated from playoffs? Weren't the Lakers supposed to be on a roll?
When the teams met Tuesday at Staples Center, Lakers fans moaned, media members yawned and the basketball had too much trouble finding the bottom of the net . . . especially for Lakers fans.
The Lakers allegedly had discarded their earlier-season issue of losing to bad teams at Staples Center, but undermanned Utah beat them, 86-85, adding its name to a list that already included Milwaukee, Sacramento and Indiana.
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The Lakers were down a point with six seconds left, but the ball flew out of Kobe Bryant's hands as he tried an up-and-under move on Gordon Hayward.
The ball skipped to Utah center Al Jefferson, who fielded it like a shortstop. Inning over. Game over.
"It slipped," Bryant said. "It slipped out of my hands."
The Lakers also let slip any real chance at catching San Antonio for first place in the Western Conference. It's not quite official, but the Lakers (55-22) trail the Spurs by 31/2 games with only a handful to play.
Losers of two in a row after winning 17 of 18, the Lakers now trail Chicago by two games for the second-best overall record. They lead Boston and Miami by one precarious game.
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It's worth mentioning that Utah (37-41) had lost eight consecutive games. The Jazz also played without injured starters Devin Harris, Andrei Kirilenko and Raja Bell, not to mention backup guard Ronnie Price.
Despite it all, the Lakers shot poorly from the start, seemingly unable to put anything together on offense. Bryant had only 20 points on dreadful six-for-18 shooting. He also had seven turnovers, none more costly than the last one.
Andrew Bynum had a career-high 23 rebounds but only 12 points on five-for-13 shooting. Shannon Brown and Luke Walton were a combined two for 10.
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The Lakers shot 37.8% and were also outrebounded, 52-49. Utah had 16 offensive rebounds.
What exactly were the Lakers doing out there?
"Not much," said Pau Gasol, who had 19 points despite a bone bruise on his right knee, perhaps the only solid part of the Lakers' offense.
Said Lamar Odom: "Our energy was bad all the way around."
Bryant hasn't liked the Lakers' effort since a 95-90 loss last Sunday to Denver.
"Everybody is taking the same . . . pill," he said. "I don't think it's boredom. We're just trying to go through the motions. It was my fault. I should've came out much more aggressive to set the tone instead of being passive. That would've started that energy. But we were sitting back."
The game initially seemed to match the dismal shooting of the Connecticut-Butler NCAA championship the previous night, with the added twist Tuesday that Hayward, the former Butler star, scored a career-high 22 points on nine-for-14 shooting.
"I wished Gordon Hayward stayed in college so he could have helped Butler [Tuesday] night instead of kicking our butts," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
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The Jazz had problems shooting as well, finishing at 40%. Al Jefferson made five of 18 attempts. Paul Millsap had 22 points but on seven-for-18 shooting.
The first half was unbelievably boring, the Lakers and Jazz combining to achieve in 24 minutes what Golden State and Phoenix could probably do in 12.
The scoreboard said it all: Lakers 40, Utah 34.
The fine print was even less attractive, the Lakers shooting 39.4%, the Jazz 33.3%.
It's been a traumatizing seasons for the Jazz. Coach Jerry Sloan quit midseason, Deron Williams got dealt at the trade deadline and the team belly-flopped in the standings.
Utah won Tuesday, though.
Just when the Lakers seemed primed to recover their season after the All-Star break, they slipped up, once again.