ANAHEIM, Calif. — Following the Lakers’ second consecutive loss to the Utah Jazz, 114-80 at the Honda Center, if head coach Mike Brown had been asked what he thought of his team’s execution, he might have answered “great. I’m all for it.” OK, so he probably wouldn’t have said that — even jokingly. But who could blame him for thinking it?
Other than Kobe Bryant, who scored 23 of 24 Lakers’ points in the third quarter and finished with 31, the rest of the team was mostly lousy. Jodie Meeks hit 4 of 6 three-point attempts for 12 points — the only Laker besides Bryant to reach double figures. Pau Gasol was given the night off by Brown, and Steve Nash just had an off night — scoring two points with one assist and four turnovers. Three of the miscues came on three plays in a 1:03 stretch near the end of the first quarter. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 13 points and Al Jefferson had 12 to keep Los Angeles winless so far in the exhibition season (0-4).
Nash, who — like his coach — is on the record about the unimportance of exhibition won-loss records, isn’t a bit troubled by another poor Lakers performance.
“Not a great performance by any stretch, but sometimes you learn more from moments of struggle than when everything goes well,” the two-time MVP philosophized. “I think this is good for us.
“It’s good for us to struggle and it’s good for us to want to come (to practice) with more resolve to improve. And if that keeps us improving through the preseason, all right. I think we have lots of room to get better.”
Nash said that with four games left before the regular season opens Oct. 30 against Dallas at Staples Center, it’s crucial that the team just keeps getting better each moment they’re together on the court — even with superstar center Dwight Howard still waiting to play his first meaningful minute of the new season.
“We have a lot to learn about reading each other at both ends of the floor,” Nash said. “(The coaches) are cramming a lot in during a short period of time, not only adding new faces to the mix but a new offense, and for a lot of guys it’s a new defensive scheme. So, it’s just about getting more and more familiar every day, so when the season starts we put together performances that will win games.”
Bryant was literally unstoppable in the third quarter, blistering the Jazz defense by converting 9 of 11 shots, including 3 three-pointers. It was like a game of Around the World for Bryant, as he hit six jumpers ranging from 18 to 26 feet, while also making three baskets from inside the paint, none closer than nine feet.
Bryant says all the Lakers need is more work, and once Howard’s surgically repaired back allows him to return to game action, they’ll be a very good basketball team.
“Dwight’s really close,” he said. “He’s making plays in practice that no big outside of Bill Russell can make; playing passing lanes, making steals, guarding guards. With him running the floor, that’s going to make a big difference.
“Hopefully we get everybody out there at some point, because the more we play together — obviously — the better we’re going to be. We need to work on our execution, work on our rhythm and work some of the kinks out.”
The Lakers will go for their first exhibition win Friday night against Sacramento in Las Vegas, then finish the preseason with two more against the Kings and one against the Los Angeles Clippers, four games in a span of seven days.