What's worse than an injured Kobe Bryant? An injured and sick Kobe Bryant. On Friday, Kobe suffered an avulsion fracture on his right index finger in a win against the Timberwolves. He will have to wear a splint on that finger for about a month. Being on the index finger, Bryant can't really avoid it affecting his shot and he will just have to attempt to adjust as he plays through it.
Adding to the injury, Bryant was suffering from the dreaded "flu-like symptoms" before the game against the Jazz on Saturday. He was given an IV before the game and during halftime. The Lakers had just beat the Jazz in LA on Wednesday with a dominating fourth quarter performance but they knew they would get a tougher game in Utah. Kobe Bryant had one of those nights where you wonder whether he should've played at all. With that finger in a splint and being sick, he played awful on both the offensive and defensive end. On defense he didn't close out on shooters and often he hardly even moved. On offense he hit seven of 24 shots including three of 11 in the fourth quarter. He finished with a season-low 16 points as he was never able to find any rhythm to the game as the Lakers fell to the Jazz, 102-94.
The biggest problems (aside from Kobe) were rebounding and three-point shooting. The Lakers were ice cold from distance, hitting just three of 21 on their three-point shots. And it's not like they weren't open. Sure, Kobe forced a few but the rest of the team missed uncontested shots. As far as rebounding goes, the Jazz are a small team. The rebounding discrepancy between these two should be huge. If you look at the stats you'd see the Lakers outrebounded the Jazz 42-35 but that number is a bit deceptive because in the fourth quarter the Lakers had a 19-10 advantage in boards including getting the last nine - after the game had been decided. If you discount the last few minutes of play, the Jazz had a 35-33 rebounding advantage. Do I need to list the height of the Lakers starting five vs. the Jazz? Gasol did his part tying a career-high with 20 rebounds but Bynum only had four and Artest just two.
If there's one good thing that might have come out of the Lakers first loss in nearly a month, it's that Gasol wants to be more aggressive. He told the Los Angeles Times, "I don't get many looks offensively, so I've got to get my offensive rebounds. Otherwise, I'll get five shots during the game. I'm trying to get my looks there, and I work hard and stay active and do what I can." If Bryant isn't able to find his stroke while he's wearing that splint, the Lakers better look to get Gasol more touches. He's shooting 58% from the field - why would you not feed him the ball?
The loss to the Jazz was the first of a five game road trip that continues Tuesday in Chicago.
Random Note: The game against the Timberwolves was rather boring except for this ridiculous dunk by Corey Brewer on Derek Fisher. Sometimes it doesn't pay to attempt to take all those charges, Fish.