A 37-20 first quarter was a pretty good way to start 2009 for the Lakers.
Even better was answering Utah’s third quarter run that cut that lead down to three at 65-62 with a 16-4 run to close the quarter.
But the best came late in the fourth, after the Jazz mounted another challenge – thanks in part to Paul Millsap’s work on the offensive glass (eight for the game) – to cut L.A.’s lead to four with 2:38 remaining. The answer came on two fantastic plays from Trevor Ariza to which Lakers fans have already become accustomed: First, with C.J. Miles dribbling on the perimeter, Ariza reached in, picked his pocket and drove the length of the floor for an and-1 layup. Moments later, after Ariza notched his fourth steal by thieving from Deron Williams, he rebounded a missed Derek Fisher jumper, stuck it back in and promptly had the Lakers back up 11 points.
In case that wasn’t enough of a dagger, Kobe Bryant nailed a dagger triple with 47 seconds left to put the Lakers up 12 (and give him 40 points), and Pau Gasol dished an amazing assist (seriously, YouTube it) in transition to Ariza before reaching 10,000 career points on a foul shot with 14 seconds remaining.
With that, the Lakers were 26-5 heading into home tilts against Portland and New Orleans.
40 Points from Kobe Bryant on 13-of-23 FGs and 12-of-14 FTs.
27 Personal fouls committed by the Jazz, to 18 by L.A.
10 Lakers turnovers, quite respectable.
8 Offensive rebounds by Paul Millsap, which helped Utah claim a 51-46 glass edge.
6 Assists from Gasol to lead the Lakers, none better than his gorgeous no-look dish to Ariza in the game’s final minute.