- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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Here are your 10 additional things to take away from the Lakers' 90-87 overtime road win against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday ...
1At 7 feet, 250 pounds and one of a dying breed of true back-to-the-basket post players in the league, Pau Gasol has been relegated to the paint for most of his 11-year career.
When he dared dabble out on the perimeter the results haven't been pretty. Sure, he proved he could hit a 3-pointer in a pressure-cooker situation with that triple he connected on in the fourth quarter of Game 3 of the first round against New Orleans last spring, but he also infamously missed a potential winning 3-pointer at the buzzer that Phil Jackson had drawn up for him in a game against Portland a few seasons back and had just a 19-for-88 career mark from downtown.
That all went out the window with 2:02 remaining in OT Wednesday when Kobe Bryant sucked in the defense at passed out to a wide-open Gasol who was parked in the corner and calmly splashed the 3 to turn a two-point deficit into a one-point lead for L.A.
"I’m just glad that he found me and I was [shooting] with confidence and I practiced that shot enough that I can make it," said Gasol who had hit a 3-pointer in the preseason against the Clippers but started off the regular season 0-for-3 from deep. "I was also happy that I made it because I did not have a good game overall, so it was a big play for the team to make and I was happy I was able to score and knock it down basically."
Gasol finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, but had five turnovers, including two early in the extra period that led to the Jazz opening up a four-point lead.
Lakers coach Mike Brown said Gasol has "a green light to shoot the 3," and added, "as you could tell, guys trust him [shooting it]," but it wasn't such and easy decision for Bryant to cough it up.
"Coach [John] Kuester’s been urging me to trust him at the 3-point line, because he’s statistically one of our better 3-point shooters in practice and I decided to kick it to him and he knocked it down," Bryant said. "I thought about it [for what] seemed like an eternity and I thought, ‘What the hell.’"
After the pass, Bryant's thoughts shifted to the heavens.
"If you think [Tim] Tebow prays, when that ball left his hands I must have said 30 Hail Mary’s in 10 seconds," Bryant said.
Gasol made it clear that he's not going to go all Dirk Nowitzki all of the sudden and start using his 7-foot frame to launch from beyond the arc with regularity, but he said he wants to test his range from game to game to see if he's feeling it from deep on that particular night.
"That won’t be the focus of my game, at all," Gasol said. "It will just be another weapon, another thing to add up to it."
Brown seems to be endorsing the option.
"He can shoot that thing," Brown said. "He can shoot it very well."
2As clutch as Gasol's shot was, Andrew Bynum came up with two game-sealing plays in the final minute on both ends of the floor.
First, with 51 seconds left he tipped in a Bryant miss to put the Lakers up by three, which ended up being crucial because the Jazz marched right back down the floor and cut the lead back to one with 39.1 seconds left after a Paul Millsap jumper.
Then, with 1.9 seconds left, Bynum made his impact felt on defense, blocking Al Jefferson's gimme in the paint that would have given Utah the lead.
"When you play like dog s--- the whole game, it’s good to do something good, especially if it impacts the game in that way," Bynum said, putting it quite frankly.
Bynum finished the game with 12 points, nine rebounds and five blocks, but shot just 5-for-13 from the field and 2-for-4 from the free-throw line with three turnovers.
Still, Brown disagreed with Bynum's assessment, crediting his big man for his defensive effort throughout the night.
"He kind of made up his own coverage on Al [Jefferson]," Brown said. "We kept trying to tell him to get out of it, but he wouldn’t listen to us. Whatever he did worked. So, I may add it to my defensive playbook. I might just call it the Bynum Package or something like that."
3Oh, right, Kobe scored 40 points for the second straight night to give him 109 40-point games for his career (the Lakers are 75-34 all-time when he hits the 40-point plateau). It was the first time Bryant scored 40 or more in consecutive games since he went for 41 and 41 against Houston and Memphis (in two wins) on Nov. 4 and 6 of 2009.
"He really got his stuff in the flow [against Phoenix] I think," Brown said. "His [48 points] was in the flow and it was nothing forced. He took what the defense gave him and was in rhythm. [Wednesday] we had to ride him a little bit more."
It wasn't just the fact that Bryant scored 88 points over the two games. He also played 82 minutes total in the back-to-back, but the man who Brown called a machine, shrugged off any hint of fatigue.
"Do I look tired?" he said to a reporter.
As for his abundance of offense, Bryant offered a simple explanation.
"Great screens, deep post position and nothing more to it," he said.
While his jumper is falling, he admitted his handle is a little off kilter, however.
"The last few games I haven’t been dribbling, I’ve been doing that on purpose because I really can’t dribble too much," Bryant said. "It puts too much pressure on the joint to dribble and pound it consistently."
4While Bryant's playing through his wrist injury, his teammates are having a tougher time with their health. Steve Blake was the latest victim to join teammates Josh McRoberts, Troy Murphy and Derrick Caracter on the injured list.
Blake is listed as day-to-day because of a rib bruise after he twisted his torso in an awkward way Wednesday, re-aggravating an injury he initially hurt against Phoenix. He exited the game against Utah in the third quarter and did not return. Blake was walking through the locker room gingerly after the game and said it hurt to even breathe and to laugh. He said he might undergo X-rays Thursday if his condition doesn't improve overnight.
5With Blake potentially out, rookie guard Darius Morris' debut became even more important. After sitting out the first 11 games of the season, Morris finally had his number called and had a solid outing, finishing with four points on 2-for-2 shooting, to go with two assists, two turnovers, two fouls and a rebound in 13 minutes.
It didn't take long for him to make an impact on the NBA, as just 14 seconds after checking in in the second quarter, Morris found Metta World Peace for a dunk to officially put him in the score book with an assist.
"I had just checked in, I was on defense just focusing on a defensive assignment then, boom, it happened and it kind of got me comfortable because Metta finished with a great dunk and just really got our second unit energized an also our whole team," Morris said.
As for his two turnovers and two fouls?
"Rookie calls," Morris said with a smile. "But that’s just the way it is in this league."
6World Peace's dunk accounted for his only two points. Brown, who said before the season began that he'd like World Peace to average double-digits off the bench, vowed that that number is still possible Wednesday even though No. 15 was averaging a career low 6.3 points per game coming into Utah.
"I think it’s a little too early to tell, I still believe it though," Brown said. "He came in obviously overweight so now he’s been losing weight and he’s close where he needs to be or where he wants to be. Now it’s about getting in a rhythm at the correct strength and the correct weight and then you kind of go from there."
7Caracter, who has been sidelined since training camp because of a torn meniscus in his left knee, has been running on the altered-gravity treadmill and is expected to resume full weight-bearing running by the end of the week and possibly return to some on-court activity as early as next week.
It's been tough on the second-year player, not just because he knows the team could use him with the rash of injuries it has suffered recently, but because he is still trying to establish himself as a player in the NBA so he can go on to earn a lucrative living with a long career.
"In college [I had a major injury] but it was offseason, I didn't have to miss games ... and no money was involved," Caracter said, laughing as best he could at his plight. "When they were first considering getting rid of L.O. [Lamar Odom] and Pau, I was excited. Minutes were going to open up for me and I was going to be able possibly to start right away and put all the work that I put in during this offseason out on the court.
"... I'm just trying to set myself up. Me and my family."
8Required reading: With the first Lakers-Heat matchup of the season one week away, Brown was asked to compare Kobe to LeBron James, seeing as he's the one man to coach both of them in the pros.
Here's the choice quote: "LeBron, he's a guy that likes to laugh and joke and he knows, obviously, when there's a time to be serious but he's youthful. I guess that's probably the word. Whereas Kobe is not as much. Kobe is more serious-minded."
9Quote of the night: "I draw from the crowd a lot. The crowd here, they’re pretty nasty and I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of walking away from here saying that they won." -- Bryant on what motivates him when playing in Utah.
10Stats of the night: The Lakers have held seven of their first 12 opponents to 90 points or fewer. ... It was the Lakers' first road win of the season after starting 0-3.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
10hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
12hESPN Stats & Information
2dJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info
2dMatt Walks, ESPN.com