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NBA Playoffs: Jazz have no answer for Laker frontline

May 5, 2010, 2:38 AM EDT

Bryant_dunk.jpgThe Utah Jazz have the best point guard in basketball. They’ve surrounded him with good outside shooting and talented forwards. They have one of the best coaches in the league and run the flex with precision. They’re a tough, physical team who don’t back down from any challenge. 

What Utah doesn’t have is the kind of size and talent up front that the Lakers do. The Lakers have two skilled seven-footers capable of doing serious damage from the post and a versatile 6-10 forward who comes off the bench. The Jazz have two talented 6-8 forwards and one Kyrylo Fesenko. Tuesday night in Los Angeles, the Lakers’ advantage up front was the key to their game two victory over the Jazz.
It’s hard to say what the Jazz should have done differently in game two. They took the ball hard to the rim all game long, rarely taking quick jumpers or forgetting to feed their bigs. They shot the ball well from deep, going 8-19 on shots from beyond the arc. They finished with 10 fewer turnovers than the Lakers did. Because of that, the Jazz took 17 more field goals than the Lakers did, and only 8 fewer free throws. And it’s not like the Lakers were shooting well themselves — in fact, they only shot 8-31 on shots taken outside of the paint. 
In spite of all of that, the Jazz never really had a chance to win. The lead never got all that big and the Jazz spent a few minutes of the fourth quarter in striking distance, but the outcome was never in doubt. 
Points in the paint isn’t part of the story — it’s darn near the whole story. When the Lakers’ army of giants went inside, they got buckets. The Lakers went to the post early and often, and it worked. When left on an island, Bynum, Gasol, and Kobe were cash. When doubled, they found cutters effectively. Even when they missed, another big was there for a put-back. When the relatively diminutive Jazz went to the basket, they either got their shots blocked (The Lakers recorded 13 blocks over the course of the game) or altered. The Lakers also murdered the Jazz on the offensive glass, grabbing 18 offensive boards against only 21 defensive rebounds for the Jazz. 
The Jazz finished 25-59 on shots outside of the paint while the Lakers shot 32-48 from inside the painted area. Gasol, Bynum, and Odom were all operating with impunity inside, combining for 50 points and 44 rebounds on 18-24 shooting from the floor. The Jazz trio of Boozer, Millsap, and Fesenko wasn’t nearly as effective, combining to score 48 points and 26 rebounds on 20-45 shooting. 
Not only was the Jazz’s lack of size getting exposed, but Kobe Bryant was outplaying Deron Williams by a considerable margin. Kobe finished with 30 points and 8 assists, and put the game away with 9 points in the final five minutes of the contest. Meanwhile, Deron Williams struggled all game, finishing with 15 points on 4-16 shooting from the field. That’s the kind of game Utah can’t have from Deron if they want to win this series; if they want to have a chance against the Lakers’ Goliath bigs, they need their sling to be working properly. 
After the game, Williams pointed to the Los Angeles’ size advantage as a reason for his struggles, saying that “[The Lakers] were doing similar to what Denver did; they were just a little bit better at it, making other people beat them. Every time I turned to get in the lane there were two to three guys in there and that length bothers me a lot more than Denver’s did.”
After the game, Jackson was less than pleased with how his team executed. He didn’t mince words when he looked ahead to game three, saying “We cannot survive a game like tonight in front of their fans.” Jackson does have a point in that there are certainly a lot of things that the Lakers could have done better in game three. However, if the Jazz don’t get more out of Deron Williams, get Kirilenko healthy, or find a way to make Boozer and Millsap three inches taller, I don’t see a lot of ways for the Jazz to win this series. 
  1. LakersFan - May 5, 2010 at 4:03 AM

    The Laker bench again failed and Farmar practically blew the lead himself, with a key turnover, a failed layup, several missed open looks and too much dribbing … again. I don’t count Odom as part of the bench, really. He is their sixth man. Farmar needs to learn how to execute that triangle offense better. I mean, damn, give the ball to the bigs in the post and stop trying to play hero; it’s not hard. Shannon Brown would be a 20+ point starter in any team in the league, but he doesn’t score well off the bench, especially with Farmar in the game. Running Shannon and Farmar at the same time this season, Phil learned that, too. It’s basketball suicide, so the rotations are bad for Jackson and the starters play more minutes. Walton doesn’t have his legs yet after sitting all season and is heavier.
    Don’t get me wrong. They’ll beat Utah in 6 games, but if the Lakers don’t find a bench that can do their job, they won’t be winning a championship. Lakers will win the Western Conference … after that Phil better pray someone on his bench has a few good nights.

  2. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 5, 2010 at 5:31 AM

    I’m a Laker fan but I think it would be foolish to count the Jazz out. LA should be demolishing the opposition and not give them any ray of hope. You can’t afford to be lackadaisical if one is playing the Jazz in SLC. The way I see it, putting the bigs of LA in foul trouble is the key. LA in six.

  3. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 5, 2010 at 5:33 AM

    I’m a Laker fan but I think it would be foolish to count the Jazz out. LA should be demolishing the opposition and not give them any ray of hope. You can’t afford to be lackadaisical if one is playing the Jazz in SLC. The way I see it, putting the bigs of LA in foul trouble is the key if the Jazz wants to win. But still, LA in six. Sorry for the double post, I had to edit.

  4. Eugene Abravanel M.D. - May 5, 2010 at 6:48 AM

    It is indeed very difficult to discern why it is people play differently on any given night. Although I am not crazy about the Los Angeles, I must give them their due and recognize that the likelihood is that right now Kobe Bryant is the one who is going to be the star point guard at least for now. I really think hard and long, two 100th of a second, all you have to think about is Chauncey Billups and the answer becomes pretty evident. In my book is absolutely the best point guard alive.

  5. Colin - May 5, 2010 at 7:48 AM

    Were you drunk when you typed that post?

  6. mike - May 5, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    i lkove the lakers but i feel as if

  7. adi - May 5, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    got a headache reading this guy’s post

  8. Omnius - May 5, 2010 at 11:17 AM

    The Lakers are just a superior team with the Jazz missing Okur and Kirilenko. Even when Kirilenko comes back he won’t be that effective as he has to work himself back into playing shape and meshing with the rest of his team. The Lakers just have to bear down in Utah and sweep the series to give Koibe and Bynum some much needed rest. Hopefully Mbenga and Sasha will return soon from their injuries so the Laker’s bench is at full strength.

  9. Josh - May 5, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    What the F are you saying? lol
    But yeah, I agree with some of the other posters that you can’t count the Jazz out. They’ve been within range every game, and its been proven they get more calls than anybody on their own home floor. I can see our bigs (esp. Bynum and Odom, maybe Gasol) getting in foul trouble early in Game 3, the bench having another no-show, even Kobe getting another Tech (he’s seemed way too eager to complain about every call or turnover and honestly… lots of those turnovers were just bad decisions/handles on his part). But even with all that I say Lakers in 5, I think the only way the Jazz can win is if the Lakers get mentally unfocused. No way they are beating a focused Lakers team that plays smart.
    Of course, sometimes that doesn’t happen.

  10. Josh - May 5, 2010 at 12:12 PM

    One other thing… when did everybody just decide that Deron Williams is the best point guard in the league? Last I checked that was CPIII’s title, can you really just take it away because he got injured and missed time? If Lebron gets injured and misses 2nd half of next season does that mean somebody else is better than him?
    I mean maybe people are seeing stats I’m not seeing, and DWill is ridiculously good… but I’d say you can’t just give him the #1 spot until the other guy has a chance to come back and remind us how good he is. And honestly, playing well against a dumb, undisciplined Nuggets team without its head coach that barely played Defense is not enough to make him #1 in my book. Or being able to burn the slowest PG in the NBA (Fish I love you but you’re slow as molasses) isn’t that impressive either.

  11. Bbbbbbill - May 5, 2010 at 1:48 PM

    Ummm…has anyone seen Rajon Rondo play lately?! At this point in the season, nobody’s better.

  12. En2PD - May 5, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    I had a siezure when you said about the best point guard alive comment. I wanna smaoke what you have!!!!

  13. sugar mills - May 5, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    looking good so far boys lakers please finished off teams in the third quater i dont like when the fourth quater comes around and i strat getting heqadach kobe please make sure you have the ball in your hand in the fourth quater as the pointguard and cut done on your turnovers.
    when i loose i dont want to go to work am the only yelloiw and purple in the office so please make 4-0 or 5-1

  14. jazzman - May 5, 2010 at 7:08 PM

    DO not worry laker fans when you get back to LA all will be well in La La land. In Salt Lake you will see what real fans are. Yelling, cheering and Supporting their Team the ENTIRE game. AK will be back ( hopefully ) and the Karma of The Larry Miller Court will show Just how a developed team can lose to a team who has more heart than money. Do you really think the refs and the media are going to let the Lakers win the series on the Road. NOT. They will throw the Jazz a Bone, Just like Denver did.

  15. luffy - May 5, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    WTF are you saying “Lakers in 6″? it’s gonna be Lakers in 4 games, for short, sweep. isn’t it obvious on the past two games that Utah can’t really do anything, even if they get the bigs in foul trouble, No one is capable of guarding Kobe but they could just pray that he misses every shot…
    If Utah manages to get Krilenko and Okur in, then it could go up to 6 games… Lakers will still prevail, enough of the underdog drama please…

  16. labryonbarton - May 5, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    go Lakers

  17. labryonbarton - May 5, 2010 at 9:47 PM

    go Lakers

  18. jazzman - May 5, 2010 at 9:48 PM

    luffy I understand completely but you know the deal. Ok tell you what if the lakers sweep us in 4 I will wear a # 18 lakers jersey for a week to work. I will be honest about it and I will post on the sweep blog that the Lakers rule. If the series goes 6 games you have to take Fesenko.

  19. Brent - May 5, 2010 at 10:12 PM

    The series really should be 1-1. Jazz were robbed in game one.
    Already prediceted the bias by the refs.
    Whats funny is game 2 was starting to look like a repeat of game 1.
    The Jazz just need to finish games. The Lakers look like they are out of gas and are hanging on for a win that is VERY MUCH IN DOUBT. Never let your opponents back in the game.
    All in all, its still basketball and the first to win 4 takes all the marbles. So nobody really cares if the Lakers win. They wlll be the laughing stock of the NBA if they lose the series to the JAZZ.
    JAZZ are playing out of their mind considering they have lots several key players to injury.
    Small guys against the giants. David and Goliath so to speak. They will need your prayers but it can be done. Tough team. Much toughter then the talented Lakers.

  20. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 9, 2010 at 12:03 AM

    Looks like you’re a game away from wearing Vujabrick’s jersey after game 3’s nailbiter. LOL!
    Don’t get me wrong dude. I still think it’s Lakers in 5 games. Just hoping for a sweep…
    Down at 0-3, the series’ status isn’t indicative of how truly difficult it is to get each win by the Lakers at the expense of the Jazz. Then again, it makes each victory sweeter when we get that back-to-back this year.

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