Last night’s matchup between the home Utah Jazz and the visiting Los Angeles Lakers could not have featured two more different teams.
Whereas the Jazz have been heavily pursuing development of the team from the inside with young players finding their roles and honing their skills, the Lakers have been trying to survive the last year of Kobe Bryant’s career after which their overhaul can finally begin. Whereas the Jazz are fighting for the playoffs, the Lakers’ season has long ended.
And yesterday night, the home team prevailed. But the Jazz didn’t simply beat the Lakers. They destroyed them. In fact, they handed them the worst loss in decades, tying the Lakers negative record of losing by 48 points. The final score was 123-75,which also tied the biggest margin by which the Utah Jazz have ever defeated an opponent.
Everything was clicking for the young Jazz and especially their second-year shooting guard Rodney Hood who scored 30 points in the first half alone. Even more spectacularly, he scored 30 on just 12 shots. Since Kobe is Kobe, he decided to faceguard Hood for the rest of the game and the young guard did not force it. He later said that his team had a big game coming up and that he just wanted to remain healthy. The Jazz also played their trademark stingy defense, really stifling the Lakers’ already limited scoring.
Last night was also Kobe’s last time he would play in Salt Lake City where he has taken on the Jazz since 1996, often in playoffs. According to Kobe himself, Vivint Arena (former Delta Center and EnergySolutions Arena) was one of his favorite away arenas because of the fans that would never back off and that spurred him on.
The Jazz organization honored Kobe and his career with a video tribute during which they acknowledged the fact he has always been a villain in Salt Lake, but a respected opponent nonetheless.
The Jazz also honored Andrei Kirilenko last night, the Russian who played for the team for ten years, often pitted against Kobe both during the Stockton-Malone Era and later, in the transitional period. The fans welcomed the gangly Russian, the famous AK-47 who has always been a fan favorite. At least among the most knowledgeable fans.
All in all, it was a historic night in Salt Lake last night and everyone had fun. Especially the home team which stays in the 7th spot in the Western Conference thanks to this win.