Lakers guard Kobe Bryant argues an out-of-bounds call with an official… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
Here's a few Jeopardy! questions: He went three of 20 from the field, despite having the easiest and most appropriate looks at the rim. He ended a perfectly executed final play by clanking a wide-open three-pointer. He routinely missed layups.
Had you answered with "Who is Kobe Bryant?" the audience likely would've laughed at you. But Alex Trebek would have said "that is correct" before eventually advancing to the Final Jeopardy! round.
The Lakers' 103-99 loss Sunday to the Utah Jazz remained mystifying for Bryant who posted 15 points, missed 17 shots from the field, including one-of-six shooting from three-point range, and committed seven turnovers. It seemed as if Bryant starred in the movie "Faceoff," in which John Travolta and Nicholas Cage switched identities. There lacked a definitive explanation over Bryant's performance that he described with an expletitve.
"I had some nice looks," Bryant said. "But I couldn't make a shot."
Nearly every layup rimmed out. Nearly every shot within 10 feet of the basket fell short. Nearly ever mid-range jumper hit iron. Don't even wonder about the three-pointers. They clanged, too.
Bryant curled off a pick that Pau Gasol set off the top of the key that gave him an open three-pointer that would've forced overtime. But the shot hit off the rim. He drove the lane and threw up an easy left hook, but that shot rimmed out as the Lakers trailed 89-82 with 5:57 left. Bryant constantly attacked the basket and went eight of nine from the free-throw line. But he also missed four shots within 10 feet.
Bryant's off nights sometimes feature him taking poor shots, such as when he shot a season-low six of 28 in a New Year's Day loss to Denver. This time, no one would be able to answer this Jeopardy! question. It became one of those nights when Bryant couldn't help but remain sarcastic about whether he lacked confidence on the final shot ("extremely"), if he liked his shot selection ("are you kidding?") or if Utah did anything defensively on him ("not at all").
OK, so Bryant wasn't completely foretelling on the last answer. Utah forward Paul Millsap blocked Bryant's eight-foot jumper in the first quarter. Other than that, however, Bryant took shots he'd normally make even if he tried to miss them.
"The shots he took, he's our guy," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. "I'll play that game all over again and have him shoot the same ones and if he goes three for 20, then he goes three for 20."
However justified Bryant's shots were, he could've repeated the scenario in another way. Andrew Bynum and Gasol combined for 51 points on an efficient 20-of-26 shooting. Aside from their 10 turnovers, it's fair to reason that a few less of Bryant's shots could've resulted in more frontline production.
"There's plenty of things to pay attention to about than my shot selection," said Bryant, who's maintained a league-leading 29-point scoring average. "I didnt force anything. It was all easy looks. I only took 20 shots."
All of them that normally drop in the basket. This time, they didn't.
Lakers fall to Jazz in third loss at home