Kobe Bryant had just nailed two clutch 3-pointers in the game's final minute and change when he found the ball in his hands again, with his team down by one and six seconds left to play.
He sized up Utah's rookie Gordon Hayward, who was checking him, made his move into the lane to attempt one of his patented game winners and then . . . he didn't find the ball in his hands any more.
"It slipped out my hands," Bryant said. "It just slipped."
As Bryant walked off the court after the final buzzer had sounded he held both of his hands in front of his face and stared blankly at the 10 fingers that did him wrong.
Bryant hit eight game winners last season but has yet to add a buzzer beater to his resume this year. Tuesday seemed like the perfect opportunity, but Lamar Odom wasn't surprised that Bryant didn't even manage to get a shot off.
"It happens and I’m not surprised it happens in a game like this," said Odom who went on to call the loss their "worst game of the year, by far."
Bryant blamed himself for the loss, not because he fumbled the final possession, but because he only attempted one shot in the first half and thought he failed to establish an aggressive tone for his team.
Andrew Bynum placed the fault on everybody.
"Tonight was just the case of coming out and really thinking we can just beat the team just by being there," Bynum said. "I don’t know why we torture ourselves like that."
The Lakers had 19 turnovers Tuesday, a game after coughing it up 20 times against the Nuggets.
"That speaks to the inefficiency offensively in terms of decision making and spacing and making sure that we’re operating in a way that allows for all five of our guys to be effective," said Derek Fisher.
Bynum was more blunt, claiming the team "gave up on the triangle."
L.A.'s two-game losing streak puts them 3 1/2 games behind San Antonio for the No. 1 spot in the West and two games behind Chicago for the No. 2 spot overall with just five games left to play.
Instead of looking ahead to catch the Spurs and Bulls, the Lakers are now looking behind to stave off the Heat and Celtics (one game back) and Mavericks (two games back).
"Now we got to think about keeping second place [in the West]," Bynum said.
Hayward not only defended Bryant successfully on the final play, he had himself a day on the offensive end too, as he finished with a career-high 22 points off the bench to go with six boards, five assists, two steals and a block. It earned him some high praise.
"I’m very, very fond of him," said Bryant. "He’s a very skilled all-around player. I think he’s going to have a bright future in this league. He reminds me of a more talented Jeff Hornacek. Jeff couldn’t put the ball on the floor as well as he can. I just think he has a bright future."
Lakers head coach Phil Jackson opened up his postgame remarks by acknowledging the rook as well.
"I wish Gordon Hayward would have stayed in college and helped Butler last night instead of kicking our butt tonight. Jeez."
As Jackson has made his way through his self-proclaimed "last stand" season, he has routinely been asked if he really is going to retire. Tuesday the question was pointed a little differently. Why, Phil? Why?
"My mobility is some of it and I think it’s a perfect opportunity to retire," Jackson said before confirming that the potential lockout looming over the league also factors into his decision.
Then he was presented with a couple of scenarios to see if they could draw him back to the sidelines.
First, is there a hypothetical offer he can't refuse floating out there? "I haven’t heard of it or I wouldn’t anticipate it," Jackson answered. "I really haven’t."
Then what about being a high school coach?
"I don’t think I’m up for it right now," he replied. "The communication level between myself and 20-year-olds, there’s a gap. There really is."
He did mention that Kareem Abdul Jabbar's time spent as a coach working on an Indian reservation in Arizona piqued his interest, but he settled for just reading about it. "That’s something that vicariously I like to experience through him that he had in his book," Jackson said.
The news that Dennis Rodman and Tex Winter are going to be inducted in Springfield this summer will bring the Hall of Fame counter for those Bulls teams of the '90s up to five (Jackson, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are the others). So, with five HOFers, six rings, plus the all-time best regular season record of 72-10 in 1995-96, doesn't that make a pretty compelling case that Chicago had the best NBA team of all time?
"I hadn’t thought about that," Jackson said, pausing for reflection. "[But] I think every Celtic that ever played is in the Hall of Fame, isn’t it?"
Pau Gasol played for the first time since suffering a bone bruise in his right knee when he fell awkwardly against Denver on Sunday. He reported feeling "pain and soreness" after the game, but still managed to rack up 19 points, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks in 32 minutes. Before the game, a few teammates came to his defense in regards to Amare Stoudemire recently calling Gasol "soft." Here's the story. You'll want to click on the link to read what Ron Artest said to disparage Stoudemire in return.
According to a story in the L.A. Daily News, Joel Meyers will not be renewed as the Lakers television play-by-play announcer next season. Lakers PR man John Black confirmed that Meyers' contract, as well as the rest of their broadcast talent's deals, expire at the end of the season but would not confirm the report. "We’re not going to discuss that situation until the end of the season," Black said. Meyers joined the Lakers in 2003, replacing Paul Sunderland who had assumed the role after the legendary Chick Hearn passed away.
Quote of the night: "You can’t dissect this game. There’s nothing there. You can’t find anything so don’t get intricate in your writing. Don’t do it … We played bad, really bad and it’s time to move on … There’s nothing to break down, no ins and outs of the Lakers and stuff like that. This wasn’t us tonight." -- Odom making a plea to the media to erase Tuesday's result from their memory banks.
Stats of the night: Utah snapped a 17-game losing streak at Staples Center (playoffs included) dating back to Jan. 1, 2006 . . . The Jazz also ended their eight-game skid they were on coming into Tuesday. It was the third time L.A. let a struggling team get well against them as Dallas (six games) and Miami (five games) also ended losing streaks vs. the Lakers . . . Bynum grabbed a career-high 23 rebounds . . . Steve Blake finished with five assists and zero shot attempts. He had the exact same assist/shot totals in a win against New Jersey on Jan. 14.