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Lakers 120, Utah 91: At the buzzer

Take that, Jerry West!

My assumption is the visitors found the Lakers rather spry Tuesday night. Below is the anatomy of a beatdown...

Highlights:

1. The First Quarter. To say the Lakers own the Jazz at Staples does a disservice to the concept of ownership. Utah might as well be the Washington Generals to L.A.'s Globetrotters, with Kobe doing the confetti-in-the-water-bucket routing with courtside spectators. 16 straight wins over Utah coming into the game on their home floor. The best way to make it 17? Come out and smack the Jazz around early, and suck out hope for an upset.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

This sort of dominance was par for the course Tuesday night, as the Lakers whipped the Jazz at Staples.

Mission accomplished. The Lakers blew the doors off early, piling up a 15 point advantage with a combination of efficient and effective shooting and a suffocating defense forcing five Utah TO's off which the Lakers generated nine points. Andrew Bynum was effective inside, blocking a pair of shots and altering countless others. The role of rim protector in the "new" defensive schemes is a pleasing one. "That's traditionally the center's role, and I think just changing shots and being there to block shots kind of anchors the D. [The opposition] starts missing shots, and we get fast break opportunities, which we don't [normally] get much of," Bynum said. "That's the advantage you have with two seven footers. We can switch a lot of stuff on the interior part of the defense, and one of us should be there to cover up penetration."

Ron Artest had two steals, throwing his weight around against both C.J. Miles and Deron Williams. Most importantly, LA. was crisp in its rotations, forcing either tough shots, or the types of shots they want to see. The Jazz certainly missed a few, but not enough to hit 36.4 percent without some help.

Buoyed by an uncharacteristic helping of easy offense, the Lakers put on a clinic. 37 points on 13-of-18 from the floor, plus eight-for-10 from the line. Seven players scored, all notching more than three points, but none more than seven. Serious balance. Kobe hit three of his four shots, effectively moving Raja Bell to his preferred spots, while Bynum bullied Al Jefferson with relative ease, repeatedly establishing outstanding position.

Via our friends at Forum Blue and Gold, over the first 12 minutes, the Lakers had an offensive efficiency of 160.9. That'll get it done.

2. The Second Quarter. See a pattern here? Good as the Lakers were in the first, they were better in the next 12 minutes. Utah scored only 16 points, and were actually worse from the floor at 26 percent. Between the 6:45 and 2:00 marks, the Lakers allowed two points and extended their lead 14 to 28. They also did a great job of playing through the quarter and into the half. On Utah's second-to-last trip, Paul Millsap tried to get a shot inside but was swallowed up by both Bynum and Pau Gasol. On their final possession, Gasol swatted Andrei Kirilenko.

At the other end, the Lakers had 11 field goals, with assists on all of 'em. Ball Movement 101. Before the game, Phil Jackson spoke about controlling the tempo, noting how much of the battle comes at the offensive end. With the Jazz constantly taking the ball from their own net and the Lakers making few mistakes (three TO's), the Lakers were constantly able to set their defense. The results showed.

By the way, they were very good in the third quarter, too.

3. Steve Blake. Slowly, he's showing more signs of improvement. Tonight was among the best games he's played as a Laker. He was the only Lakers player to check in and not score in the first quarter, but more than made up for it with a slick pass to Lamar Odom inside for an easy reverse layup, and a nice lob on the break to Shannon Brown. He then picked up a steal early in the second and set up Brown for an open jumper before hitting a pair of jumpers on consecutive trips.

Plus, Blake got a little chesty with Earl Watson in the fourth, affording him an opportunity to practice his cold, empty stare, an effective move given his current neck scruff.

"Steve made some wonderful plays out there, offensively," Phil Jackson said. "Giving guys the ball in positions where they could work with it. Passes leading to layups. His offense is just a bonus, becuase he's not looking for his shot but is much more than an adequate shooter for us. He had a nice game."

Before the game, P.J. said he'd love to see more of an even split between Blake and Derek Fisher, in terms of playing time. After, he seemed to indicate making it happen is as much about the performance of the second unit as a group. "It's about that group sustaining the effort, so they can stay [on] the floor. Not letting runs happen. Things like recovering back into games. That's the confidence that they need to have."

4. The Bench. Odom was his typically outstanding self, making seven of his eight shots for 17 points, while adding eight rebounds and four assists in only 22:21 of play- the big highlight coming in the fourth when he, in the process of being fouled while moving out of bounds, tossed the ball over the backboard for the and-one- but the rest of the guys were productive as well.

I mentioned Blake, but Luke Walton built on a strong performance Friday night in Denver, helping fuel L.A.'s pass happy offense through the first three quarters before adding four buckets in the fourth. Brown was decisive with the ball and confident in his shot, particularly in the first half coming off a baseline screen from Walton and penetrating to the elbow before sticking a rainbow jumper.

He would finish with nine points and five assists.

About the only came in the fourth, when off a steal near mid-court Blake fed Brown for the runaway jam, but Shannon drew iron, sending the ball into the ninth row and the bench into hysterics. These are things that can be laughed at with a 38 point lead.

5. Minutes. Kobe finished with 21 points and six assists, shooting seven-for-11. Gasol made nine of his 13 hoists, and sat for good with 20/7/5. Bynum had 19 points, 11 boards, and three blocks. All were outstanding, but the best figures were their minutes. None played more than Gasol's 30. Kobe was done after 26, Drew just over 27. Artest and Derek Fisher were both in their warmups early. The Lakers have two days off before Friday's game against Sacramento, in front of Sunday's game against the Celtics and a very tough February schedule. If, as some suppose, the Lakers indeed have tired legs, games like this one do a lot to help the cause.

6. Pace. As has been noted at length over the last couple weeks, the Lakers aren't a fast team, nor a fast break team. But they're not a group benefiting from pounding the life out of the ball, either. The Lakers need to be opportunistic. Sneaky fast. Up the floor in a hurry to maximize the versatility of their personnel. "We're a really good team, really effective, when everybody on the court is playing at a good speed," said Andrew Bynum. "We're not very fast, but sometimes we get a little mired down, and get a little slow. That's when teams take advantage of us in transition. But when we have a nice thrust into our offense, it's tough [for other teams to stop them]."

Tuesday, they were spot on, whether it was pushing in semi-transition, or Kobe pushing the ball up the floor to earn the spot he wanted before the Jazz could set themselves defensively. All the defensive pressure certainly helped, but there was a little extra hop in L.A.'s pace.

Lowlights:

1. First Quarter Defensive Rebounding. The Lakers allowed five in the first 12 minutes, and the resulting six points were about the only thing keeping the Jazz within spitting distance early. And that's assuming the Jazz can spit really far.

2. Free Joe Smith! No burn until 4:32 remaining in the game? C'mon, P.J.! Throw the vet a bone!

That's about it. You saw the score, right?

Fun with numbers:

34: L.A.'s assist total, a season high.

0: The number of lead changes and times tied (they don't count 0-0). The Lakers scored first and rolled from there.

1: The number of buckets for Smith in a Lakers uniform.

8: Consecutive games in which Kobe has hit 47.1 percent or more of his shots.

5: Second chance points for the Lakers. Normally, such a low number is an indictment of bad work on the offensive glass. Tuesday, it was an indication of how rarely they actually missed shots.