Lakers Beat Jazz in 22-Point Comeback Victory

The Los Angeles Lakers came back from 22 points down to beat the Utah Jazz 98-91 at Staples Center on Sunday night.

Down by 22 points in the second quarter of Sunday's game against the Utah Jazz, the Los Angeles Lakers appeared set on their way to the third straight blowout loss of their preseason.

Following strong debuts by Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash in the Lakers' preseason opener, the purple and gold proceeded to lose their next three games by a aggregated total of 89 points. In those demoralizing losses, the lack of energy, effort and emphasis on defense were easy to spot with the naked eye and even easier to track using the simplest of statistics.

In all three of their losses, the Lakers allowed 115 or more points. In their lone victory, the Lakers kept their opponent under 100 points.

Considering the lack of firepower with Nash, Jeremy Lin, Xavier Henry, Nick Young, Ryan Kelly and Jordan Clarkson all out injured, the Lakers currently have little to no chance of winning without putting forth a stellar defensive effort. The team simply does not have enough points on the available roster to compete in a high-scoring shootout.

On Sunday night at Staples Center, the Lakers stared up at the score board at halftime and it read 54-38. The Utah Jazz had a 16-point lead, and the Lakers were on pace to give up 108 points on the night. In the first half, the Lakers mirrored the team that had dropped three games in a row, and confidence and crowd noise was at an all-time low.

"When we came out, before the [2nd] half even started, I said, 'Listen, we're not even going to talk about offense. It's all about us getting more aggressive on the defensive end,'" Lakers coach Byron Scott said after the game.

For the final 24 minutes, the Lakers executed on the defensive side of the ball, and the Jazz failed to touch the 100-point mark. The Lakers held their opponents to only 37 points in the second half, and a great deal of that defensive energy came from the Lakers' big men.

Carlos Boozer had his best showing of the preseason with 19 points and nine rebounds, but his six steals raised eyebrows. Boozer's active hands created turnovers, and the Lakers began to create offense off their defense.

"That's normally how it goes," Scott laughed after the game. "For some reason, when you play good solid defense, everything seems to be falling for you on the offensive end."

One player who took that mantra to heart was Lakers' rookie Julius Randle. Randle had two block shots, which was a team-high, and showed strength and resilience that did not turn up in the box score. On the defensive end, the 19-year-old looked comfortable on the floor and was an intimidating figure in the lane.

On the offensive end, Randle displayed signs of the clutch gene. All four of Randle's field goals came in the fourth quarter of a close game. The first two of those shots broke a tie to give the Lakers a slender lead. The next one took the Lakers from down one point to up one point. His last made basket brought the Lakers level after they were trailing.

It may have only been preseason, but this rookie hit some big shots and began to find his footing.

"I think the biggest thing that clicked was me being active on the defensive end, carrying it over to my offense," Randle said after Sunday's victory.

Randle's coach expressed satisfaction with the rookie's progress and hoped for more of the same in the future.

"That's what we're hoping, that we get this type of energy and effort from him every single night," Scott said. "Obviously, he has it in him. He has a world of talent."

Bryant would finish with 26 points, four rebounds and five assists, earning player of the game honors, but by his unreasonably high standards, Sunday night was not a performance to remember. Instead, the excitement after the game revolved around the rookie and the Lakers' commitment to defense.

Quote of the night:

"ESPN are idiots, but you'd have to REALLY be an idiot to [expletive] this up," - Kobe Bryant taking a shot at his player ranking while telling reporters Randle would have to be an "idiot" to waste his golden opportunity with the Lakers.

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