Lakers guard Kobe Bryant exits the court in the final seconds of a 95-86 loss… (Rick Bowmer / Associated…)
SALT LAKE CITY — Kobe Bryant started walking off the court with about five seconds left, disgusted by the Lakers' effort, turning around only to see that Metta World Peace missed a last-second shot.
Then he continued toward the locker room, his jersey pulled up into his clenched teeth as the Lakers lost again, 95-86, this time to Utah on Wednesday at EnergySolutions Arena.
Bryant was still seething as he sat in front of his locker, acknowledging he played with an anger and fire he hadn't displayed in a while.
"Just a little bit," he said, practically spitting out the words.
"Nothin' I care to share," he said.
Bad sign for the Lakers. Bryant is mad. Or maybe it's a good sign. It can't hurt at this point.
If Bryant was angry with Pau Gasol, it made sense. The four-time All-Star had five points in 36 minutes, missing seven of nine shots as the Lakers were outmuscled badly by the smaller but tougher Jazz.
If Bryant's mad at Coach Mike Brown, he's not alone. Lakers fans are displaying little to no patience for the Princeton-based offense that has taken one victory in five games.
If Bryant's irritated with himself, he shouldn't be. He had 29 points and made 15 of 17 from the free-throw line, though his six turnovers were a problem on a team that seemingly loves to give the ball to opponents.
If he's mad at the Utah crowd, he should also perish the thought, even if Jazz fans hurled a mildly obscene chant upon the Lakers in the final minute of play.
It was completely accurate. The Lakers really do, um, stink these days.
At least none of them got into spats with fans in courtside seats Wednesday. Score one for the Lakers. But only one.
They never led, they had 11 assists as a team, they missed Steve Nash and they were still missing a bench, their reserves outscored by those of Utah, 36-12, the least surprising statistic in a season full of unpleasant ones for the Lakers.
They got angry with the referees, angry with each other, and nobody scored besides Bryant after Dwight Howard's layup with 6 minutes 21 seconds to play.
From there, Bryant took seven shots, making four, and earned four trips to the free-throw line. It was almost predictable.
His frustration began to rise at the end of the second quarter. He left the court with an angry look on his face, irritated that Howard couldn't corral his pass off a drive as the Lakers trailed, 51-41.
The play defined the Lakers' lack of cohesion in a split-second microcosm: Howard thought Bryant would feed him alley-oop style; Bryant thought Howard would be ready for a to-the-gut pass.
"Is there a chemistry issue? We haven't played together," Howard said. "It takes time."
Howard lost his cool too, at times.
While he complained about a non-call in the second quarter, his defensive assignment, Enes Kanter, dunked at the other end. Then Howard lost the ball in the post on the next possession, the ball stolen by Kanter.
Howard had 19 points, nine rebounds and one attempt at damage control.
"Sometimes I think as a team, we ought to be able to not really show our frustrations that much," Howard said. "A lot of the guys look at me and Kobe and they feed off us, so we have to do a better job of keeping our frustrations on the inside and just playing through it so our teammates won't get down on themselves.
"I know [Bryant] was a little frustrated tonight. He wants to win just as bad as all of us do. We've just got to stay together, remember it's a process and stay focused."
Making it worse for the Lakers were the minutes logged by the starters.
It was a high-impact game for them: Bryant, Howard and World Peace each played 37 minutes. Gasol played 36.
It's probably worth mentioning that the Lakers shot 33.8% against the league's 18th-best defense. They shot 17.4% from three-point range and, sure, only 69.6% from the free-throw line.
Are the Lakers starting to worry? Bryant smirked at the question.
"I'm terrified," he said sarcastically. "You serious with that? I'm shaking in my Nikes."
As the Lakers completed their pregame warmups, a voice over the arena's sound system reminded them that they were "off to their worst start in 34 years."
When will it get better? More accurately, will it get better?