The Los Angeles Lakers in their preseason finale defeated the Utah Jazz, 111-106, behind a balanced scoring attack with seven players scoring in double figures.
Lakers began to separate in the third quarter, outscoring the Jazz 37-20 on 68 percent shooting from the field and held the their opponent to 31 percent from the field. Steve Blake played a huge part in the scoring outburst, contributing 13 of his game-high 19 points after a back and forth affair between the teams in the first half.
“When you see the first one go in you get little bit of confidence,” Blake said after going 7-for-7 from the field including 5-for-5 from 3-point range for the game. “Some nights they don’t go in, but (you have) to keep the same rhythm and the same form. I have been doing this a long time, (so) it was only a matter of time before they start going in.”
One thing that stood out in that decisive third quarter was the fact that the starting lineup played the entire 12 minutes, which was something Blake felt worked out for the better as the Lakers built a big enough lead that ultimately became too difficult for the Jazz to overcome, despite outscoring Los Angeles 33-23 and shooting 54 percent from the field in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t know if he planned on doing it or not but I kind of had it going,” Blake said of head coach Mike D’Antoni’s decision to keep his starters in for the entire third quarter. “It felt good out there so I might as well roll with it. I don’t know if he planned on it but it worked out.”
D’Antoni was satisfied by his team’s play as a whole but knows that they can still improve in different areas.
“I felt the second group played really well in the first half and the first group played really well in the second half,” D’Antoni said. “It would be nice to make it both halves, but I think they got some good work in, a couple good things.”
The Lakers did not play Elias Harris, Ryan Kelly or Robert Sacre. Marcus Landry was cut by the team after the game and also did not suit up. As expected, Chris Kaman did not play as he stayed home battling gastroenteritis; and Kobe Bryant is still out as he continues to rehab his surgically-repaired Achilles.
Monitoring Steve Nash
In the Lakers’ preseason finale, Nash played 29 minutes, which were the most minutes he has played in any game the preseason. He also played the entire third quarter despite still dealing with his nagging neck issues.
“I wanted to play as much as I could to get a little bit of a feel for the game again as far as playing that many minutes,” Nash said. “I thought it was important that I played and got some minutes.”
Nash did however feel some pain from his neck as evident by him icing it on the bench during the fourth quarter; he felt he needed to be floor to get a feel for the game.
“I felt the neck for four days now, so the neck hurt to start the game but I felt like I needed the minutes,” Nash said. “So with three or four days to recover I thought I would sacrifice the neck tonight to try and get some playing time. That was it. It was too valuable and our last opportunity to play a game to sit out, so I just struggled through it.”
As for Nash’s playing time moving forward, D’Antoni has described that as a moving target as it will be judged by how his body responds game-by-game. As for Friday, he thought his point guard played better in more minutes on the floor.
“It was good, we have to watch it. I don’t know what the magic number is,”D’Antoni said. “Obviously he won’t play the whole third quarter .We will split that up, so we make him finish the game. The good thing about it is you got some good. Steve Blake played great (and) Jordan Farmar played great. He got some minutes he can handle hopefully and go from there.”
The play of Farmar and Blake behind Nash will be important, and D’Antoni knows that each player will need to pick it up in place of the 39-year-old point guard on the floor, but with that said, the main concern for D’Antoni is about keeping the two-time league MVP in rhythm.
“The thing you have to worry about is you have to keep Steve in rhythm,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t want to save him, for what, the junior prom? Ok I saved him, now what? You got to have a certain rhythm and you don’t know it so you got to keep talking with him and hit the right buttons because it’s a light edge about being rusty or playing. You got to hit that edge and I have to rely on his expertise and tell (me) how he feels and what we can do.”
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