NBA Playoffs, Lakers Jazz Game 2: Can the Jazz find a way to get easy buckets? That or grow taller.

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Thumbnail image for Boozer_Lakers.jpgIt was clearly a shock to the Jazz’s system.

They came from facing a Denver defense where the players’ main goal is to get back on offense, there is no discipline in the system, nobody really breaking up the passing lanes on Jazz cuts. There were a lot of easy baskets.

Then they have to face the Lakers, with their long arms and commitment to making easy passes hard, to protecting the rim. The Jazz were tentative early, unsure how to deal with the length of the Lakers, which makes things like simple post entry passes hard (the Jazz turned the ball over 27 percent of the time they went into the post in game one).

Then when they did get inside, the Lakers bothered their shots. Utah got 47 percent of its shots at the rim, scoring 44 points there on just 55 percent shooting. For comparison, Los Angeles got 39 percent of their shots at the rim, but scored 48 points there on 80 percent shooting.

In the second half, the Jazz did a better job executing their offense — they got nine shot attempts off on their beloved cuts and inside passes in the game, but seven of those game in the second half. The Jazz shot 5 of 8 on those with no turnovers.

The Jazz started to execute better, they started to adjust to the Lakers length. They made a comeback and even took the lead based on their balanced scoring (five guys in double figures).

They have reason for hope heading into game two.

But hope is a ways from a win. There are things the Jazz have to do, primarily on defense. One is slow Kobe Bryant, who took over late and spoiled the comeback (in part due to bad defense by Carlos Boozer, in part because he is Kobe and that’s what he does). The Jazz do not have a good individual matchup for him, and there is the fear that one game this series he could just go off and win it nearly single-handedly. The Jazz need to deny him the ball, throw different looks at him and just try to generally make life hard. Force Kobe to shoot long twos (problem is, last game Kobe was 4 of 5 from 16 to 23 feet, some nights you can’t win against him).

Utah is going to have to defend in the paint better. The Lakers cannot shoot 80 percent at the rim. And that means Kyrylo Fesenko and Kosta Koufos are going to have to step up, they are going to have to be more physical. Take the fouls, but make the Lakers work for it. The Jazz cannot win this game or this series if the Lakers have unfettered control inside.

The Jazz need to get some easy baskets — in transition off the more aggressive defense, off crisp cuts in the offense and passes made without hesitation. Easier said than done (at least against the Lakers first unit, the bench is soft), but it can be done. The Jazz offense cannot be average if they are to win.

The Jazz have serious matchup problems in this series, but they are the one team with enough discipline to overcome them. The strategy is there, and the Jazz are the masters of execution.

That execution is going to have to be nearly flawless to get a win.

Michael Jordan to Klay Thompson: “Go ahead and break” Bulls’ 72-win record

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 25:  Owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Michael Jordan, watches on during their game against the Washington Wizards at Time Warner Cable Arena on November 25, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NBA - NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Barring a major injury, it seems almost inevitable at this point that the Warriors will surpass the 1996 Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season and vault themselves into the conversation of the greatest NBA teams in history. All year, members of that ’96 Bulls team have weighed in comparing the teams, but one guy who hasn’t given his thoughts publicly is Michael Jordan.

Apparently, during All-Star Weekend in Toronto, Jordan gave Klay Thompson his blessing for the Warriors to go for 73. Via CSN’s Rosalyn Gold-Onwude:

Not that the Warriors need anybody’s permission to go after the record, obviously. But it had to be cool for Thompson to hear directly from Jordan that he respects what the Warriors are doing and wants them to break his own record. In all likelihood, they’ll do it.

Report: No suitors for Boston’s David Lee. So far.

Boston Celtics' David Lee comes down after dunking during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets in Boston, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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The Celtics are rumored to be involved in a lot of trade talks that in reality are going nowhere — Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Al Horford. The buzz around the league is none of those deals are coming together, in part because Boston is protective of its picks (particularly things like the 2016 unprotected first round pick of the Brooklyn Nets).

What the Celtics would love to talk about is finding a new home for David Lee. But that is proving difficult, reports Mark Murphy of the Boston Globe.

Lee, who has fallen out of Brad Stevens’ rotation, and would welcome a move to a playoff team that has a role for him, is not drawing suitors.

“David Lee was tough for Golden State to move all of last year,” said the source. “And it finally came down to him being moved for Gerald Wallace. David Lee has no value. It’s his contract. David Lee’s value comes in if they get one of these big name players.” … Isaiah Thomas has been doing his part when it comes to selling players on the virtues of being a Celtic.

Lee is making $15.5 million this season. He’s always mentioned in those superstar trade rumors with Boston because they can use his salary to help match a more expensive players’ contract. But on his own, that’s been a much tougher sell.

Hopefully, the Celtics can find a taker; Lee deserves to be in a place where he has a chance to at least contribute a little. He’s not a starting caliber player anymore, but we saw in the NBA Finals last season in the right circumstance he can play a key role.

Craig Sager and his flashy suits return to All-Star weekend

Craig Sager
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TORONTO (AP) — The All-Star game in New York was a little less colorful last year.

Craig Sager, the TNT sideline reporter known for wearing flashy suits, missed the NBA’s annual midseason gala for the first time since he started doing them in 1988. Another bout with the leukemia he’s been battling for the last few years resurfaced, and Sager was forced to sit out while undergoing more treatments.

Sager considers the All-Star festivities the most important weekend of the season for him, and so it pained him to have to watch on television while receiving his treatments.

“It was hard for me not to be there, but I had to address my health,” Sager said. “To be able to get that in remission and be able to go through this year, it’s going to be extra special for me. I’ve really been looking forward to this a long time.”

That’s right. Sager is back for All-Star weekend in Toronto this year.

He spent the week leading up to it in Houston receiving his monthly treatment, which included a blood transfusion, to make sure he was healthy enough for the trip. Once he arrived in Canada, he was easy to spot.

“I just saw him,” Spurs coach and longtime foil Gregg Popovich said after the Western Conference team practiced on Saturday. “His suit spoke to me. It blinded me for a second.”

It’s been an emotional run for Sager, the longtime fixture at NBA games. He has needed two bone marrow transplants and still has to make those treks to Houston once a month. He has returned to the sideline for games this season and is feeling so well that he was scheduled to do both the Saturday night activities that include the 3-point shootout and the dunk contest as well as the game on Sunday.

“I feel great. Got my weight back. Got my strength back,” Sager said. “I’m back to playing golf.”

Two of his youngest children – daughter Riley and son Ryan – will be with him on the court this weekend serving as a ball boy and ball girl.

And of course, Sager will do a round with Popovich on television during a quarter break on Sunday. The two have turned the sideline interview into a passion play,

“He’s been an iconic figure in the NBA. He does a great job,” Popovich said. “His sense of humor is obvious. we have a lot of fun going back and forth with that. To have him back where he belongs, obviously we’re happy for him and his health. But for the league it’s great too, because he’s a fixture that everybody enjoys.”

Sager called the support he has received from Commissioner Adam Silver, coaches, players and fans “humbling” and said he was looking forward to coming back to his favorite event of the season.

“It’s been very uplifting, very therapeutic,” Sager said. “Very supportive on their part. That really has been very helpful to me, my treatment and my drive to get back.”

Kevin Hart, Draymond Green get in All-Star Saturday three-point shootout

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TORONTO — This is going to come up in the Golden State locker room.

Right before Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry put on a three-point shooting exhibition, actor/comedian/self-promotor Kevin Hart came out and challenged Draymond Green to a shooting contest. Green was ready to go. They did the three-point shooting contest, and Green put up a total of 12 (which would have been dead last in the actual three-point contest, for the record).

Then Hart stepped up — and tied him with 12 points.

Steve Kerr, if you’re ever looking for a lineup to go REALLY small….