Lakers halt skid with team effort
LOS ANGELES — With superstar Kobe Bryant doing his utmost to get his teammates involved, the Los Angeles Lakers snapped a four-game NBA losing streak with a 102-84 victory over the Utah Jazz.
Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace scored 17 points apiece while Bryant, the NBA’s second-leading scorer, handed out 14 assists to go with 14 points and nine rebounds in the much-needed win.
Pau Gasol and Steve Nash scored 15 points each while Howard also grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds for a Lakers team that had endured a rocky three-game road trip this week.
Last Sunday, Howard was ejected from a loss to the Raptors in Toronto after receiving two technical fouls.
Howard then complained he wasn’t involved enough on the offensive end after a disappointing eight-point outing in a Monday loss at Chicago.
A team meeting on Wednesday morning aimed at clearing the air was reportedly tense, and was followed by defeat to the Grizzlies in Memphis.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni was delighted to see his star-studded roster playing like a team against the Jazz.
“I thought that the energy was great, the sharing of the ball, the rhythm that we had on offense. But the defense was solid all night,” D’Antoni said. “You could tell there was a better feeling out there.”
Bryant said his aim from the opening tip-off was to get his teammates involved.
“I was just trying to make a real concerted effort to try to force the game upon my teammates a little bit,” he said “Just have them play with confidence — even if the shots aren’t going in, just try to push on a little bit.”
The Lakers started strong, scoring 12 of the first 14 points of the contest.
They led 47-37 at halftime and took a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Los Angeles made their first seven attempts of the fourth to extend their advantage. Bryant’s steal and dunk gave the Lakers a 92-74 lead and the Jazz couldn’t make significant inroads from there.
The 18-25 Lakers remain mired in 11th place in the Western Conference, well adrift in the race for the eighth and final playoff berth.
“There’s no formulas,” D’Antoni said. “I think guys understand a little bit more where we are and what it’s going to take to get to the playoffs.
“When we hit turbulence somewhere along the road we can’t bail out. That’s when we’ve got to come together and play through it.”
“If we can sustain it, keep playing hard and keep being together we should be able to crawl out of this hole, but it is a big hole,” D’Antoni added.