Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions tries to fight through a double team by… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
1. The Lakers turnovers made the game harder than necessary in their 103-99 loss Sunday to the Utah Jazz. The Jazz scored 22 points off those turnovers. But the reasons for them vary. Bryant (seven), Bynum (five) and Gasol (five) remained the highest offenders for various reasons. Bynum and Gasol made careless passes and responded slowly to double teams in the post. Bryant, at times, appeared overly aggressive in driving to the lane. There's another factor. The Lakers committed 17 of their 24 turnovers when Steve Blake ran the offense. Aside from his two turnovers, it's unfair to put sole blame on Blake. But the stat definitely reveals how much more fluid the Lakers run their offense when Ramon Sessions is on the floor. That doesn't mean Blake played poorly. Aside from his need to shoot more than a zero-of-one clip, he soundly ran the offense. But the pace slowed when Blake ran the floor, making it less likely the Lakers could generate easy baskets and more likely they would lose the ball on either poor passes or double teams.
2. Bryant played a poor game. It seemed as if Bryant starred in the movie "Faceoff," in which John Travolta and Nicholas Cage switched identities. The Masked Mamba didn't look like himself, scoring 15 points on three-of-20 shooting and committing seven turnovers. Bryant deserves to have an off night every once in a while. He still maintained his aggressiveness and most of his shots came off good looks. I honestly have no explanation why his shots didn't fall, particularly because Bryant's nemesis Raja Bell didn't play. Bryant tried compensating by driving to the rack, resulting in a eight-of-nine clip from the free-throw line. But that doesn't erase his poor shooting numbers. When his shot is off, it's better if Bryant gets others involved. But he didn't.
3. Sessions' presence gives the bench a stronger and quicker identity.The debate over whether Sessions should start over Blake isn't as important as how many minutes each plays. Based on that criteria, Brown values Sessions over Blake. It's easy to understand why. Sessions helped the bench run its offense better in various ways. Sessions drove forcefully to the basket and went seven of eight from the stripe, making it less likely the Jazz could throw double teams in the post. His six assists came on plenty of lobs to Bynum and backdoor cuts to Matt Barnes (12 points). Sessions' zero turnovers showed his ability to play at a quick pace yet still keep the offense organized.
4. Bynum and Gasol dominated. Bynum's 31 points on 12-of-13 shooting featured what you'd expect from him. Plenty of lobs, efficient footwork and immediately establishing post position. Gasol's 16 points on seven-of-11 shooting featured a series of jumpers, hooks and putbacks. But the Lakers hardly took advantage enough of the absence of Al Jefferson, who was attending his grandmother's funeral. As stated before, Bryant had plenty of good looks and didn't force the issue. But when his shot isn't working, there has to come a point where Bryant simply plays the percentages.
5. The Lakers defense took a step back. In the last five games, the Lakers have lost some focus on their execution, allowing 100 points per game on 45.7% shooting. As much as the Lakers' turnovers fueled Utah's defense, there were other areas too. The Lakers routinely were beaten backdoor, allowing second-chance points. Despite Jefferson's absence, Paul Millsap (24 points), Josh Howard (12) and Enes Kanter (career-high 17) easily made up for it.
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