Tag: Los Angeles Utah

NBA Playoffs, Lakers Jazz Game 4: Utah, now all hope is lost. Officially.


Kobe_layup.jpgIt’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.

NBA Playoffs, Lakers Jazz Game 3: Andrei Kirilenko says he is ready to play

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The Jazz are desperate for some size and another weapon to confront the Los Angles Lakers — and for Game 3 they will have one. An AK-47.

Andrei Kirilenko said Thursday that he will be ready to go on Saturday, as reported by the fantastic Ross Siler in the Salt Lake Tribune.

“I’m good, I’m ready,” Kirilenko said prior to the Jazz’s practice Thursday morning.

Kirilenko went through a strenuous workout on Wednesday, according to trainer Gary Briggs. Without a setback, Briggs estimated Kirilenko will be “90 or 95 percent” for Game 3.

Kirilenko has not played serious minutes since early March, so his conditioning will be an issue. And it’s a tough spot to be thrown into a must-win game for the Jazz and have to take on the long front line of the Lakers to do it.

But we’ve seen the results without him — the Jazz played their game, played it fairly well, and lost. AK-47 may not, likely will not, be able to change that on his own. But the Jazz will take any help they can get.

NBA Playoffs, Lakers Jazz: As if the Jazz don't have enough problems, Kobe is back

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nba_bryant2_250.jpgAt one point in the first round, Kobe Bryant was showing all the leaping ability of Ron Artest. You could hardly tell them apart… well, except for the hair. And the build. And the fluidity of motion. Okay, so it wasn’t that bad.

But it wasn’t good either. Oklahoma City was blanketing him with very good defenders like Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Durant — they deserve a lot of credit for making his life difficult. But Kobe was not his explosive self. He is the master of creating his own space then elevating for a jumper where he gets a good look. But the elevator was not going all the way to the top.

It is now. He has 61 points in two games against Utah, and that is with him largely deferring to the Lakers huge matchup advantage in the post.

Through the magic of MySynergySports I rewatched all of Kobe’s shot attempts from the first two games, as well as games three and four of the first round, and this is a different Kobe. He has said as much, as reported in the Orange County Register.

Bryant said of the Lakers’ two losses in Oklahoma City: “Played on one leg, basically.”

It’s just a matter of the explosion of the moves. Kobe in this series is moving with a real aggressiveness, a purpose, he pushes his way to the spot he wants on the floor. He is spinning and driving baseline with quick moves, something he just could not do last series.

A few times — like his second basket in game one or the late game-winning layup that same game — he comes hard off the pick to find no defense there and he has driven for a virtually uncontested layup. Blame the Jazz defense if you want (and you should) but Kobe did not do that last series because he lacked the speed to attack the same way.

Last series, Kobe slid around the picks, he glided. Given space he would take his jumpers (and he still hit them with regularity from the spots he likes, such as the elbow), but he could not create the space. He was slower.

But against the Jazz the Kobe that pushes and spins his way to those spots, then explodes for the jumper, is back. He has taken advantage when the Jazz got stuck with a smaller man on him (Deron Williams, for example). Kobe is backing guys down again. The elevation is back.

Kobe is still shooting a lot of jumpers — he is not 25-year-old Kobe with that raw athleticism that make him impossible to matchup. He picks his spots now. His game has matured.

But he is getting the shots he wants again. And that makes him a very, very dangerous player.

Just want the Jazz needed. Another nearly unstoppable problem.

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.