Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 12/28/11
LOS ANGELES On April 28, 2011, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New Orleans Hornets 98-80 to win their opening-round playoff series 4-2. That was the last time Kobe Bryant and his mates won a basketball game of any kind. Until Tuesday night. It seemed like an eternity, but it actually took just 243 days for the Lakers' next victory as they gave Mike Brown his first win as head coach, throttling Utah 96-71 behind Bryant's 26 points. Pau Gasol, playing with a sore left shoulder but extremely aggressive, added 22 points (10 from the free throw line) and nine rebounds, while Metta World Peace had 14 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes. The Jazz (0-1) were playing an older team that was in the final game of a season-opening back-to-back-to-back set, and was missing suspended center Andrew Bynum (out for one more game). Yet the youngsters were outplayed and outhustled by the vets, scoring just 46 points through three quarters. Forward Paul Millsap, battling severe tendinitis in his right quadriceps, came off the bench to lead the Jazz with 18 points and eight rebounds, and swingman Josh Howard had 10 in his first game for Utah. However, the rest of the Jazz supplied little help. The Jazz shot 29 of 90, a putrid 32.2 percent, with star forward Al Jefferson the chief offender, missing 14 of 16 attempts. The Utah bench was 15 of 46 as the Lakers reached into the time machine and used quickness on defense to deny the Jazz at virtually every turn. After blowing a lead in the Christmas Day opener and losing at Sacramento on Monday night, Brown finally convinced his team that it had to play defense for 48 minutes to win. "We have no choice if we want to be a championship team," Brown said. "As I've said, we're going to score, but defense is they key for us." The Jazz isn't the Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks or Oklahoma City Thunder, but the lack of effort the Lakers showed in the first two games was not a problem Tuesday. What also seemed to disappear was the consternation over Bryant's injured right wrist. Many observers felt the Lakers star's performance would deteriorate because of the torn ligament, and that he'd change his style of play to compensate and protect it from further injury. Nothing could be more inaccurate, as Bryant has averaged 27.7 points in the first three games, and after a sloppy eight turnovers in the opener, he's committed just five in the next two contests. He also is averaging 5.7 assists and shooting 45.3 percent from the field. "Sure it hurts," Bryant said in an interview for TNT. "Hurts bad. But I just have to suck it up. Not act like a baby. Just go out there and be professional and play the games." For Brown, it was a night to remember. After sitting out last season following his dismissal by the Cleveland Cavaliers a team he took to back-to-back 60-win seasons and the NBA Finals in 2007 Brown joined the Lakers in late May. He's already been through more turmoil and controversy than some coaches see in their entire tenures, a situation exacerbated by the losses to Chicago and Sacramento. But he's thrilled to get win No. 1 as a Laker in the record books. "It was exciting," Brown said with a smile. "It's always exciting to win, especially when you win after two losses." He also was very pleased about his team's defensive play. "Our guys did a nice job defensively. They came out and set the tone for the game at that end of the floor. To hold a team to 32 percent and 71 points in an NBA game, I don't care who you're playing, you're doing something right. "The focus, the energy the effort and the communication that we brought on defense was exciting to see." Utah coach Tyrone Corbin, beginning his first full season, was disappointed his team didn't do the same. "I told the guys before the game that if they expected the Lakers to lay down because they (were playing) three games in three nights, they were mistaken," he said. "We missed a lot of shots and that (knocked) us off our defensive game. (The Lakers) were really aggressive and got the ball where they wanted it. We didn't get the shots we wanted, and we started to press a little bit." NOTES: Brown says Wednesday he's giving the team it's first day off since training camp began. The Lakers are back at Staples Center to host the New York Knicks on Thursday night. For Utah, playing a season-opener without Jerry Sloan as coach for the first time in 23 years, it was the lowest-scoring opening game in team history. The Jazz will head to Denver to face the 1-0 Nuggets. They open their home schedule Friday night against Philadelphia.
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