It’s a simple but true basketball axiom — good tall will beat good small.
The Jazz are good, they played hard and execute their offense well, but the Lakers were just a taller, longer team. A better team.
In the first two games of the series Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom punished the Jazz inside for wins. Game three the Jazz doubled the post hard to take the ball out of the Lakers bigs hands.
It worked. Well, except for the fact the ball went more into Kobe Bryant’s hands and the Jazz had nobody who could guard him.
Monday night it was a combination of the two. The Lakers were too big early on (and the TNT announcing crew beating that fact into the ground during the Game 4 broadcast like they were getting paid a bonus for every time they used the word “length” doesn’t make it any less true). Then later Kobe got his.
Gasol had 33 points and 14 rebounds, Kobe added 32 — he scored at least 30 in every game this series — and while the Jazz battled like they always do the Lakers won Game 4 111-96. Los Angeles swept the series 4-0, first time ever Utah has been swept in a seven game series.
This game was not quite like the others, but that was because of the Jazz.
In Monday’s Salt Lake Tribune the sports section banner headline was, “All Hope Is Lost.” Jazz players ribbed the Tribune’s Jazz beat reporter about that before the game — then they went out and played like it was true. The team that fought through every pick in game three was going under them and letting Kobe Bryant have room. The Jazz were not bringing hard, aggressive double teams to the ball when Bynum or Gasol got it in deep, and the result was Gasol getting going early and having 17 first half points.
“Once we got down a little bit, it was deja vu,” Deron Williams said in a postgame interview broadcast on NBATV.
The three close losses before — by 14 points total — had taken the hope out of the Jazz. The Lakers looked like they were going to run away with this one, up 20 at one point and 17 at half.
But the Jazz do not to just roll over. They came out on a little run to start the third quarter and cut the Lakers lead to single digits, doing it by getting some turnovers and points in transition. Williams led the charge, scoring 21, a number the hustling Paul Millsap matched. Los Angeles got away from what they wanted to do — Kobe kept trying to hit daggers while Gasol didn’t get to touch the ball. And suddenly Utah was on a run.
But the Lakers steadied and for much of the second half the lead fluctuated in the 8 to 12 range. The Jazz just couldn’t close the gap.
Basically because the Lakers were taller. And couldn’t cover Kobe.The basic themes of this series playing out again.
Now it is back to Los Angeles for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals next Monday. It’s the Lakers and the Phoenix Suns — two good teams.
But a matchup where the Lakers are taller. Again.