Kobe Bryant's last trip to Salt Lake City was definitely one to forget. The Utah Jazz throttled the Los Angeles Lakers to hand Kobe his worst loss ever, 123-75.
The 48-point margin of defeat was the largest in Kobe's tenure and was also tied for the largest in Lakers' franchise history. The other time the Lakers lost by 48 points was on March 7, 2014, when their Staples Center companion Los Angeles Clippers beat the purple and gold 142-94. The big difference: Kobe was out of that game with an injury.
The Utah Jazz continued their improved play on the defensive end of the floor to limit the Lakers to just 75 points on the night as the Jazz remain the seven seed in the Western Conference.
Rodney Hood Has Career Night For Jazz
The Jazz honored Kobe Bryant with a video tribute prior to tip-off on Monday night, but this game was all about Rodney Hood. Hood scored a remarkable 30 points, all in the first half.
The second year Duke product was on fire in the first half, going 11-13 from the field and 8-9 from beyond the arc. He didn't score a single point in the second half, but the Jazz sat their starters for much of the second half due to the lopsided score. Hood missed his career-high by just two points, and who knows what he would've done if the game was even somewhat close. Hood relished the chance to play against Kobe for one of the last times ever as Kobe guarded him heavily in the first half.
"We were just talking a little bit of trash," Hood said. "He was just congratulating me on the season. I just told him he was the greatest of all-time. A guy I've been looking up to since I was a little child."
Jazz Dominate Every Aspect
The Jazz had five other players score in double figures. Gordon Hayward and Trey Lyles scored 11 points apiece, and Derrick Favors chipped in 14 points and nine boards on 6-12 from the field. Shelvin Mack and Trevor Booker each scored 17 points on the night as the Jazz combined to shoot a blistering 51 percent from the field and an even better 53 percent from beyond the arc. The Jazz shot 17-32 from the three-point line and led the Lakers in every statiscal category except for steals.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert was absolutely dominant on the glass against the Lakers. Gobert scored only eight points on the night but had a season-high 19 rebounds as the Jazz out-rebounded the Lakers by 20. The Lakers simply had no match for Gobert and it did not help that Larry Nance Jr. was out, which made Byron Scott go to Ryan Kelly.
The Jazz will head to the Staples Center on April 13 and will get the privilege to play the last game Kobe Bryant ever plays in the NBA. However, Jazz coach Quin Snyder wishes that his team wasn't the last opponent Kobe Bryant ever faces.
"There is certainly an unbelivable amount of respect," Snyder said. "That's a tough game with a lot of emotion and everything surrounding that game, so it is what it is."
Lakers Have A Night To Forget
The Lakers lost by 48 points. Yes, 48 points. That is two times Kobe Bryant's current number, and six times the number of games Bryant has remaining in his legendary career.
The whole team had a night to forget, except for Lou Williams. The former Sixth Man of the Year was the lone Laker to have any kind of success as he finished with 16 points on 4-6 from the field - including 3-5 from three and 5-6 from the charity stripe. The only other Laker to finish in double figures was Jordan Clarkson. The second year guard from Missouri had 12 points on a dismal 5-18 clip from the field.
Bryant had a tough time from the field with just five points and a pair of assists on a 1-11 mark from the field and was 0-4 from three-point country. It certainly didn't help that Bryant asked coach Scott to guard Rodney Hood after Hood just seemed to make every shot he took.
"Kobe wanted to take on the challenge," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "It's a damn shame our oldest player has to take the challenge. It says a lot about him, obviously. It's what he has done all his life, but nobody else wanted to step up and take the challenge."
The Black Mamba guarded him heavily in the second half and did a pretty good job as Hood went scoreless in the second half. Bryant was extremely tired and sore, but wanted to take on the challenge just as he always has in his legendary career.
"I just tried to choke plays off," Bryant said. "If he catches it, then I'm killed, especially tonight because I've played way too many games in a row. I can't move. If he catches it, he can go right by me. So I tried not to let him catch it."
Nick Young did not travel with the team to Utah as he still battles a stomach bug. Larry Nance Jr. sat out this game after playing in Sunday's game as the rookie still tries to heal his injury. That meant that Metta World Peace and Ryan Kelly were going to be needed to play heavy minutes, especially since rookie Anthony Brown remains out as he recovers from injury.
The Lakers shot just 30 percent from the field against the Jazz as coach Snyder continues to stress the importance of defense to this young Utah team. Their defense was certainly on against the young Lakers.
D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle combined to score just seven points on the night. Russell finished with five points on 2-11 from the field and Randle had just two points on 1-5 from the field with just one board. Roy Hibbert, the other starter for the Lakers, had eight point on 3-6 shooting to go with six boards and four blocked shots.
Kobe's Magic Number
The magic number for Kobe Bryant's memorable career is down to single digits. It also happens to be the number he wore for the first half of his Lakers career. The number 8. The Mamba has just eight games before he hangs up his shoes and calls it a career after 20 seasons. Basketball, especially Lakers basketball, will never be the same.
The Jazz will stay home to host the NBA's best team, the Golden State Warriors, on Wednesday. For the Lakers, they will head back to Los Angeles to take on the Miami Heat on Wednesday.