LOS ANGELES – In their first game of 2014, the Los Angeles Lakers were eager to end their six-game losing streak as they hit the ground running on Friday against the Utah Jazz, who had won three out of their last four games, behind a career night from Kendall Marshall and a double-double by Pau Gasol that guided them to a 110-99 win.
For the 22-year-old point guard in his first start as a Laker he recorded his first career double-double with 20 points and 15 assists in 41 minutes played on the floor. His steady hand lead Los Angeles offensive as he only had one turnover for the entire game.
“We wanted to get out and run. That’s when we feel like we are at our best. We were able to do that,” Marshall said, who is the second Laker player to record a point/assist double-double in his team debut starter. “We were able to get in the pick and roll situations. Pau had a great night. Our shooters knocked down shots, and when we are able to do that, we can compete with anybody.”
In the first quarter, the Lakers scored the first seven points of the game with Marshall scoring five of the seven points he recorded in the quarter to go along with four assists. Gasol also got off to hot start by scoring eight points on 4-of-6 shooting that helped Los Angeles gain much as a 19-point advantage over the Jazz on 65 percent shooting from the field.
But what stood out the most in the opening quarter was Los Angeles’ stout defense that held Utah to just 12 points on , which is a season-best for the Lakers in any quarter thus far this season.
The pair would continue to shine in the second quarter as Gasol would again score eight points and Marshall dished five more assists to give him nine in total in the first half to go along with seven points and five rebounds. Gasol would have a near double-double at halftime with 16 points and eight rebounds as the Lakers lead 52 to 40.
“I just want to play hard and play well and give as much as I can to this team,” Gasol said, who had a near triple-double with 23 points, 17 rebounds, and eight assists to go along with three blocks. “I owe it to myself and I owe it to my teammates. I just want to be that guy that works hard for the team.”
Los Angeles would maintain their double digit lead in the third quarter as they would stretch the margin to as much as 21 points after a jumper by Wesley Johnson. The Jazz would make a run to begin the fourth quarter with a 10-2 run that cut the Lakers’ lead to single digits after a jumper by Trey Burke to put the score at 85-77.
Utah would later get as close as four points at 96-92 after a layup by Derrick Favors with just under two minutes left to play in the game, but Los Angeles would respond with back to back 3-pointers by Jodie Meeks and Marshall that would seal the deal.
It was a balanced offensive effort by the Lakers as six players in double figures with Gasol scoring 23 points, Marshall with 20, Meeks had 18, Nick Young chipped in with 16, Johnson had 11 and Shawne Williams contributed with 10.
For Marshall, Tuesday night’s performance was something he did not envision that he would have this soon, but before his NBA return he already had the motivation needed to have games like this.
“I actually made a list of things on my phone of things that drive me and things that people said I couldn’t do,” Marshall said. “I just repeated those things to myself everyday…(People) said I can’t shoot and that I am too slow, so I know those were things I had to get better at.”
But for head coach Mike D’Antoni it was his poise and vision on the court that led to a career-best game.
“He has great vision,” D’Antoni said. “He see everything and he reads it well and again he’s under control, and I don’t know if it’s because he doesn’t go real fast, but he stay sunder control. He’s just playing the way you’re supposed to play point guard and he saw the floor and saw guys and threw it right in their chest…He played a really good point guard and he was really good tonight.”
It was not just Marshall that D’Antoni was satisfied with, but it was how the team performed offensive as he is hoping it will be the linchpin to more success.
“We are moving the ball a little bit better,” D’Antoni said. “There just wasn’t good things happening offensive. We got to keep getting better on defense and try to dig ourselves out of this hole. We got to get things going here. We got a couple of home games we got to make it through and see what we can do.”
The Kaman Quandary
That would not turn out to be the case as D’Antoni did not play Kaman against the Jazz as he felt the lineup with Sacre was more effective and gave the Lakers a different look defensively.
“It’s just tough,” D’Antoni said. “Robert I thought played really well and we held them to just 12 points in the first quarter, and I didn’t think we would do that. We were up almost 15 (points) and I thought ‘you know what’ I got ride this (lineup) and that is just what happens. We just got so many (big men). We are so top heavy down there, but nothing against him there are just guys who give us stuff differently and that’s the case for right now.”
So with D’Antoni refusing to play Kaman consistent minutes or even at all, it brings up the question of whether signing with the Lakers was the right choice for the 31-year-old. Nonetheless, if things continue to go down this path it could be headed for some tense times between the two sides.
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