It was feeling like a lazy Sunday at Staples Center — Mr. Pibb and Red Vines equals crazy delicious. The Lakers were exploiting their numerous matchup advantages against the Jazz, Kobe was getting into the lane, the crowd was checking their Blackberries and LA was comfortable and up between 8 and 12 points for seeming ever. The end seemed a foregone conclusion.
But this is LA, they need some drama. The Jazz kept executing. Relentlessly running their flex offense. Defending. They were balanced (five guys in double figures) and CJ Miles and Wesley Mathews gained confidence. Meanwhile the Lakers bench did, well, whatever it is that the Lakers bench does. It’s usually not pretty.
Suddenly we had an interesting game, with the Jazz taking the lead in the fourth quarter.
However, the end was still a foregone conclusion. The Jazz’s execution does not make up for the matchups battles they just can’t win — it was the microcosm of the game, the Lakers won 104-99.
It might be the microcosm of the series.
“Unless I grow three inches by tomorrow, there’s not much we can do…”
Deron Williams said. “Nothing we can do about it, we just have to attack
The Lakers will take the win. Not that they were all that happy.
“I thought one through seven we did pretty good, but our bench let us down,” Phil Jackson said.
Didn’t matter. Late in the game Pau Gasol was getting the shots he wanted inside and he had five blocks. Kobe Bryant drove the lane and had a wide highway to the basket for a key layup.
The Jazz played the Lakers close, but close is useless in a playoff game.
It didn’t look like it would be close at the end early on. Coming off a series against the long and athletic Thunder where every shot was contested, it had to seem like Christmas for a while for the Lakers against a smalerl, slower Jazz squad.
Kobe started 6-6 from the floor, several of those coming on layups as he blew past his man and no help could be found.
“We were playing a young guy who has never played Kobe Bryant before,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said of Wes Mathews.
Meanwhile, coming off a series against the undisciplined Nuggets, Denver had problems with the long Lakers front line. It took away the easy shots and the Jazz settled for poor choices. Like a Carlos Boozer fade-away 17-footer over the outstretched arm of Gasol.
“We shot a lot of jump shots early on, rather than working inside out…” Williams said. “They are a way better defensive team than Denver.”
In the second half the Jazz adjusted to get the inside-out play they need by trying to go with more guard penetration. They started to attack the paint more, and the Lakers started to look fat and happy. Kobe and Gasol sat (as did Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer) when the Jazz made a run. The Lakers offense started to settle, took the easy shots.
The Jazz, as they do, kept executing. This team got the ball inside, started passing big to big. The layups came. The shots started falling. The Lakers lead started dropping and the game looked like the style that the Jazz wanted.
Then Gasol and Bynum got next to each other again and the Lakers length intimidated the Jazz. Two straight trips down they settled for and missed threes. And that started the Lakers comeback.
The Jazz did what they could, but in the end, the Lakers are bigger and longer than the Jazz, and that is something you can’t just adjust for.