Preview and Chat: The Utah Jazz

Kurt —  November 30, 2006

Let’s start with good news. The Lakers catch the Jazz on the second game of a back-to-back, and one where they have to fly in from Salt Lake. The Jazz are 3-1 on the second game of back-to-backs this season, and they come in to Staples having beat San Antonio last night.

Remembering the last meeting. Rob L. is the man — he sent me a detailed stats breakdown of the last time these two met (a 114-108 Jazz win).

I didn’t need to see the stats to remember that the Lakers need to do a better job on slowing Carlos Boozer, who had 31 points and seven offensive rebounds. (By the way, I like Boozer, just in part because that’s the best last name in the NBA.) As noted yesterday, the Lakers have struggled against the four and Boozer will get some, but the Lakers need to make him less efficient.

The Lakers also need to stop Mehmet Okur, who continued the trend of centers who can step away from the basket giving the Lakers trouble. He was 8 of 13 from the floor, 2 of 6 from beyond the arc and had 18 points.

Also, three guys who didn’t use a lot of possessions but were very efficient when they did (each had a one-game offensive rating of over 175, which is crazy good): D-Fish, Gordon Giricek and Ronnie Brewer. Need to D-up on all of them.

Then there is Deron Williams. Last meeting with LA he had 15 points and 10 assists, but what is impressive is how wisely he is using his possessions. I could spend time singing his praises, but Henry at True Hoop did it very well the other day.

Some other things to remember.
In much of the fourth quarter of that first meeting Bryant was guarded by Kirilenko — and Kobe went 0-3 from the field. Kirilenko is a long and agile defender who will slow either Kobe or Lamar, whichever he is guarding, so it is key to get the ball to the guy with the better match up.

And the Lakers have not been great about that. In case you missed it, at the end of the Bucks game, when the Lakers were down by three, Phil Jackson said he drew up a play for Odom to take the shot, because he knew Kobe would draw the double. Kobe did, but didn’t make the kick out pass, instead choosing to dribble it out himself then take a shot from four feet beyond the arc. That’s not wisely picking his spots.

Smush pouts. Smush had a rough game against the Bucks Tuesday night, and from that an Interesting note from commenter Scott, who was at the Lakers/Bucks game (and in very good seats):

It looked like Phil pulled Smush out of the game after he made a bad pass which led to a lay-up for the bucks in the third quarter. Smush reacted to being pulled by throwing off his headband and slowly walking off the court. For the rest of the second half, during every timeout, as the team was huddled around their coaches listening to what to do, Smush was just sitting by himself at the end of the bench not joining his teammates in the huddle. I think his attitude after being pulled in the 3rd quarter led to him not being put back in the game by Phil. Phil gave him a chance… he was about to put Smush back in for the last 2 minutes but again, Smush slowly took his time walking over to the scorer’s table and slowly started putting his headband on and before he even got to the scorer’s table, he had already been called back to the bench and he was never put in. I personally like Smush and I am a big fan of his play and potential, but I think that he needs to realize the position he is in and he needs to not take that for granted. A big part of being in the NBA is to know how to be benched for one dumb play, but be strong enough mentally to put that behind you right away and get back out there and help your team (Farmar does a very good job of this)

Things to look for.
Can the Lakers control the defensive boards? Last time these two hooked up the Jazz had 15 offensive boards, and they continue to lead the league, pulling down 33.1% of their missed shots. Kwame and Bynum need to snap out of the funk they were in against the Bucks and take control of the glass.

Jordan Farmar missed the last meeting between these two, should be interesting to see how he can do on Deron Williams. However, Williams is a lot stronger than Jordan right now, and that could be trouble for the rookie.

The Lakers are going to see a lot of zone until they beat it consistently. One easy way — have Bynum/Kwame flash in the paint and feed them a good pass. They will get a good shot off or can kick out for an open three. You just can’t shoot over the top of a zone; you break it down then get good looks from the outside.

Great note from Gabe Farkas over at Courtside Times previewing this game:

The big difference-maker to me will be FT’s. The Jazz send their opponents to the FT line more than any other team in the league (highest defensive FT/FG ratio). On the other hand, the Lakeshow is one of the stingiest in the league at allowing the other team to get to the line. The Jazz are middle-of-the-road when it comes to getting to the line on offense, but LA again trumps them with 0.28 FT’s per FG (good for 8th in the league). I expect this to be a close game overall.

By the way, while you are certainly welcome to chat here during the game, myself and others will try to keep a running commentary going over at Courtside Times through both TNT games tonight. Check in while you watch Shaq and Miami take on… what? Shaq’s injured? He’s missing much of the regular season? Wow, that’s not like him, with that great work ethic he has and all….