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Amid bright spots, Lakers fade again

Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant give fans something to cheer, but team is now 0-3 in the preseason.

October 13, 2012|By Ben Bolch
  • New Laker Steve Nash, shown running past Utah guard Mo Williams, received loud cheers from the same L.A. crowd that had rooted against him during the previous 16 years.
New Laker Steve Nash, shown running past Utah guard Mo Williams, received… (Gus Ruelas / Associated…)

It was a simple pass and perhaps the start of something special.

Steve Nash found Kobe Bryant for a pull-up jumper in transition early in the first quarter Saturday night, the veteran point guard logging his first assist as a Laker at Staples Center.

Fans cheered loudly, a surreal moment considering they had fervently rooted against Nash for the first 16 seasons of his NBA career.

Bryant was also showered with adulation during the Lakers' 99-86 exhibition loss to the Utah Jazz. Nothing new there.

He finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists in only 24 minutes before the Lakers' reserves folded again in the fourth quarter.

It's starting to be a habit for a team that is now 0-3 in the preseason. A score that was tied 69-69 after the third quarter quickly got out of hand for the Lakers amid a flurry of lackluster defense and offensive breakdowns.

On the plus side, Bryant did not seem bothered by the strained right shoulder that had forced him to miss the previous game, and fans got to cheer Dwight Howard for the first time when the video scoreboard showed the center sitting on the bench in a turtleneck.

There was also a poignant moment in the third quarter when Metta World Peace stripped the ball from Gordon Hayward and then ventured behind the basket to kiss a young woman's hand.

Fans were in a generally agreeable mood except when the scoreboard flashed Time Warner Cable ads that were roundly booed, presumably by those still unable to receive Lakers games from their cable or satellite providers as the result of an ongoing fee dispute.

Those who couldn't watch missed another step-up performance from Lakers rookie center Robert Sacre, who had nine points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes before fouling out. He continued to make the kinds of hustle plays that could help land him the final spot on the team, grabbing a missed free throw by Bryant and later blocking a shot by Alec Burks.

The 7-footer, who has been thrust into the starting lineup by Howard's back injury, would be an end-of-the-bench player if he stuck around.

Not that he would seem to mind.

"I'm very fortunate to have this thing come in my lap," Sacre said of his opportunity before the game. "I may as well take the opportunity to seize it."

Lakers Coach Mike Brown continued to tinker with his rotations, elevating Darius Morris to second-string point guard while sitting out reserves Steve Blake and Chris Duhon.

"Really none of the backup spots are set," Brown said before the game. "Guys are still fighting for the backup spots and fighting to make the team, so I want to take a look at Darius."

Heading into the game, none of the Lakers backup point guards had done much to earn playing time.

Blake and Duhon had two points between them.

"That's not good," Brown said.

Meanwhile, Morris was averaging 2.5 points.

"He's killing those guys then," Brown joked.

There had been an encouraging development in practice Friday when Morris led the Lakers' second unit in a rout of the starters. It didn't exactly carry over as Morris had two points on one-for-six shooting to go with four assists in 19 minutes.

Antawn Jamison and Devin Ebanks had nine points apiece off the bench for the Lakers, rare production from a group of second-, third- and fourth-stringers that was collectively outscored, 50-33.

Many of them won't be around for long.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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