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Friday, December 27, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Jazz 105, Lakers 103

By Dave McMenamin


SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz's 8-23 record coming into Friday was awfully deceptive more than deceptively awful as Utah had gone 7-9 in its last 16 games, which was the exact same record the Los Angeles Lakers had in their last 16.

And for much of the night they looked like dead-even teams more than the 15th team in the West (Utah) that came into the season with lottery expectations against the 12th (Los Angeles) that seemingly had postseason possibilities when the campaign tipped off.

There's no denying that the Lakers were short-handed (missing Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol), but they had a strong performance out of Jordan Farmar at point guard, another quality game from Nick Young at shooting guard and a stellar game from Chris Kaman at center, so it wasn't as if they were lost at those positions.

But just like Christmas Day when they played a much better Miami Heat team, the Lakers gave themselves a chance to win but couldn't close it at the end.

How it happened: Farmar looked like the player he was before he sat out 24 days because of a left hamstring tear, commanding the action from the point with 12 points, four assists and four rebounds at the half (he would finish with 16, seven and seven) as L.A. trailed by three. Just as he did against Miami on Christmas Day, Young took over in the third quarter, scoring 13 points in the period to draw the Lakers within two points headed into the fourth. L.A. hung tight until Young fouled out with 5:45 to go in the fourth, giving the Jazz two free throws to push their lead to seven.

The Lakers didn't pack it in there, using a 6-0 run punctuated by buckets by fast-break buckets by Farmar and Jordan Hill to draw within one with 3:53 to go.

A Gordon Hayward floater (24 points, nine assists) put Utah back up by three, but Jodie Meeks came back with a 3-pointer to tie it with 2:48 to go. Hayward made a 3-pointer on the fast break to give Utah the lead back and padded it by making one of two free throws with 1:05 remaining to put the Jazz up by four.

Hill tipped in a Farmar miss to bring L.A. to within two with 48.8 seconds left and then Marvin Williams missed a 3-pointer, setting up a Farmar-Hill pick-and-roll that put Hill at the line with two free throws to tie it with 18.6 seconds left. He rattled the first one home and swished the second to knot it at 103-103.

Derrick Favors had a strong two-handed putback dunk on Hayward's missed layup as Utah tried to play for the final possession, but left 2.1 seconds on the clock when L.A. called timeout.

Meeks got a look at a long 3-pointer from the top of the key when the buzzer sounded, but it fell short and L.A.'s losing streak was extended to four games.

What it means: The Lakers are out of sorts these days and really need to shore things up when they return home or they could lose hope of rallying for a playoff spot pretty quickly.

Hits: Young finished with 21 points on 10-for-17 shooting, good for his 16th straight game off the bench with double-digit scoring and his fourth night with 20 or more in his last five games played.

Xavier Henry had another solid game off the bench since Farmar returned, scoring 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting.

Kaman had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, besting his previous scoring high of 16 points with the Lakers while shooting 7-for-11 from the field.

Hill finished with 16 points and nine rebounds.

Misses: L.A. shot just 7-for-23 from beyond the arc (30.4 percent) with a significant portion of those misses coming on wide-open looks on catch-and-shoot opportunities.

L.A. shot just 16-for-23 from the foul line after going 15-for-26 against Miami.

Stat of the game: 14. That's how many turnovers the Lakers had, leading to 15 points for the Jazz, which isn't such an egregious number but it seemed as if many of the turnovers came at momentum-killing moments.

Up next: The Lakers return home to Staples Center for four straight games against teams with .500 records or worse as of Friday with Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Utah (all sub-.500) and Denver (.500 at 14-14) coming to town. It's a soft spot in the schedule they need to take advantage of.