Airing things out among themselves had the desired effect for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Metta World Peace hit five 3-pointers on his way to scoring 17 points and the Lakers pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Utah Jazz 102-84 on Friday night, snapping a four-game skid.
Coming off an 0-3 road trip during which players confronted each other last Wednesday in Memphis, the Lakers received balanced scoring and better team defense that helped them beat the Jazz for the first time in three meetings this season.
Kobe Bryant suggested ”our closed-door meeting that everyone seems to know about” had something to do with the victory.
”It’s a relief, especially against a team that’s handled us pretty well,” he said. ”We made shots and that makes the game a lot easier. It’s not about showing we’ve turned the corner. It’s about doing it.”
Derrick Favors led the Jazz with 14 points off the bench. Fellow reserve Gordon Hayward scored 13 and Al Jefferson had 12. Paul Millsap and Randy Foye added 10 points each. Utah had won six of its previous seven.
Dwight Howard had 17 points and 13 rebounds, Steve Nash scored 15 and Pau Gasol added 15 points off the bench for the Lakers. Bryant had 14 points, a season-high 14 assists and nine rebounds in bringing Utah’s four-game winning streak to an end.
”After the Memphis game, we put the past behind us,” said Howard, who had vowed after the meeting that he would take a bigger defensive role. ”We’ve got to sustain it for the rest of the season. We have to play together and play for each other.”
Howard aggravated his right shoulder in the second quarter of the Lakers’ loss at Memphis, the same injury that caused him to miss three games two weeks ago. But he showed no ill effects from the start, scoring six points in a 15-4 spurt that opened the game and gave the Lakers the lead for good.
”It feels pretty good,” Howard said. ”I did a lot of work before the game.”
Bryant moved the ball, giving his teammates a chance to score and taking some pressure off Nash, who had two assists in nearly 30 minutes.
”I thought Kobe was brilliant,” Nash said. ”Setting the table for Dwight and getting the team going. Dwight was obviously finishing and a big presence defensively. Those are our two big guns and when they are symbiotic like that we are a special team. I know it’s hard to sustain, but we looked like a real good squad.”
The Lakers had lost 10 of their last 12 and remain seven games below .500.
”We’re bonding together and we’re communicating with each other very well,” Bryant said, suggesting that last week’s confrontation was healthy for the team. ”You can’t just sweep things under the rug all the time. They don’t get better.”
Utah cut its deficit to 78-69 early in the fourth before the Lakers began dominating the final 10 minutes. World Peace hit his fifth 3-pointer and Bryant scored four points during a 14-5 spurt that pushed Los Angeles’ lead to 92-74. The Lakers were 9 of 21 from long range.
”I could tell they were the more desperate team,” Hayward said. ”We didn’t bring it from the start and we kind of just dug ourselves a hole.”
The Lakers led by 12 early in the third before Utah closed to 61-58, capped by Favors’ alley-oop dunk off a pass from Earl Watson.
The Lakers fought back from 3-point range. Chris Duhon and World Peace combined for three 3-pointers and Jodie Meeks dunked to keep them ahead 72-63 going into the fourth. Gasol and Millsap got into it verbally and received double technicals as the quarter was ending.
”They got their hands on us and they got us out of our offense,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. ”They were just more aggressive.”
Utah closed to 47-37 at halftime.
The Lakers’ 15-4 run to start the game was helped by World Peace and Nash combining for three 3-pointers. The Jazz quickly closed within two before the Lakers stretched their lead to 26-19.
World Peace was one 3-pointer shy of equaling his career high set on Feb. 28, 2009, against Chicago. … Bryant finished one assist shy of his career high set on Feb. 12, 2002, against Washington. … Utah fell to 9-16 on the road.