Game Preview & Chat: The Utah Jazz

Kurt —  November 30, 2007

Records: Lakers 9-6; Jazz 11-5
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.5 (5th); Jazz 112.2 (3rd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.9 (11th); Jazz 104.2 (8th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: (This is what I’d do, I have no idea what Phil will do after last night) Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum
Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronny Brewer, Carlos Boozer (day-to-day), Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur (day-to-day)

Lakers Notes: The Lakers played very well for 60% of the game, and that was enough to get a comfortable win over the nuggets. Early on (in the first on court stint for both Fisher and Farmar) the Lakers seemed caught off guard by the aggressive, gambling style of the Nuggets. But when Fisher and the other starters came back in halfway through the second quarter the Lakers offense settled down, stopped turning the ball over and that took the Nuggets out of their running game and easy buckets that fueled the lead.

Radmanovich has not thrived as a starter (last night in the first quarter he had two turnovers and two missed threes, and he was the first guy subbed out (of course, Turiaf is in for him and makes a turnover on the second possession in the game). The ying to that yang, Luke Walton has struggled off the bench but got a start in the third quarter (moving Lamar to the four) and he and the offense thrived in their familiar roles.

When the gambling wasn’t working, at the start of the fourth quarter the Nuggets started playing more zone. There are conventional wisdom ways to beat a zone — pound it on the inside, or shoot over it. Sasha Vujacic almost single-handedly beat the zone by shooting over it (yes, kwame a., maybe too much but when you’re hot….).

My favorite play of the game, in the third quarter on a mini-fast break Fisher just took the ball right at Camby, used amazing savvy and body control to draw the foul and hit the shot. About three times a game he just makes a veteran, smart play that we haven’t seen since, well, he left.

As for the Nuggets… I tried to post this in the comments yesterday and screwed it up. But after the game I thought it was dead on. It is’s David Thorpe talking about Denver.

Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, and Carmelo Anthony are three big names for Denver. Thorpe singles out this team as the antithesis of San Antonio’s approach of accumulating good role players. “Denver’s like an AAU team, where every time they lose everyone thinks they should have gotten five more shots.”

What About Odom? He was off his game again in the first half against Denver — not aggressively going to the hoop on offense (and missing his jumpers), not physically challenging to Carmelo on defense (although that is a tough match up), not taking charge of the second unit when he was the best player on the floor for the team at the start of the second quarter.

In the second half he got a few lay-ups, then hit a wide-open three later. Is that the start of him turning it around? Do you want to bet on that? Is he just better suited at the four?

I’ve waited for him to turn the corner, but I’m settling into kwame a.’s assessment that Odom is what he is — inconsistent. At times he can be brilliant, but to expect him to maintain that over 82 games is asking too much. He’d be a great third option, but is not the second option that can take this team to the next level.

The question is: How do we get the most out of him? Is it moving him back to the four and setting him up closer to the hoop? He said he is a natural three, but hasn’t played like it. Do we give him more time? It is only November, just 15 games into the season. Is it just a matter of making him more comfortable? Or uncomfortable?

I’m not sure what the answer is, and I don’t think the coaching staff seems to either. Off the court, Odom is maybe my favorite Laker right now and after all he’s been through even Scrooge is rooting for him. But I’m not sure what to expect on the court night to night, and that isn’t good for a second option on a good team.

The Jazz Coming In: They are good, they are deep, they are 7-3 in their last 10 and Carlos Boozer is leading the way in that stretch shooting 60.8% and scoring 25 a game. Not to mention his 10 boards.

Jerry Sloan is an old dog with a new trick this year, opening up the offense — the Jazz play at the seventh fastest pace in the league, almost identical to the Lakers. The results have been great — the Jazz are the third best offense in the NBA this year, shooting 51.6% (eFG%) as a team.

Both Boozer and Okur and game-time decisions tonight due to nagging injuries. Whether or not they play will be a big factor in how the Lakers line up and match up.

Last time these two met: It was a Sunday night game four games into the season and the Lakers got the win. Kobe led the way, with 33 points, a +13 and he shot an incredible 71% (eFG%). But it was Andrew Bynum — against one of the best front lines in the league — who shot 85% and was a +14, while Jordan Farmar was +11 and shot 68.8% off the bench.

Those three stood out in the key stretch in the fourth when the Lakers pulled away. To be fair, it was the second game in as many nights for the Jazz, and the fourth quarter is often where teams on a back-to-back fade.

The highlight of that game — Kobe rejecting an AK-47 dunk.

D-Fenders note:
Coby Karl with 19 for the D-Fenders, on 7 of 14 shooting (1 of 3 from deep). He had 15 in the first half. Sean Banks led the team with 28. Oh, and the D-Fenders won, 123-111.

Keys To The Game: If the Lakers win tonight it will be because of a good defensive effort. First, the Jazz love them some pick-and-pop and high screen plays (you would too if you had Williams running the point) and the Lakers need to defend that well, with the bigs showing out strong then recovering, or it will be a long night.

Under any circumstances the Jazz front line is a tough match up. Bynum on Boozer? I think Boozer will play — he came back from a sprained ankle last game to play the fourth quarter (although those tend to swell after the game is over and the tape is off). Okur went out with back spasms and just judging the tone of Jazz beat guys I think he sits. But then, who do the Lakers use on AK-47? Walton? Odom? Whoever it is the Lakers will need to control the paint to win.

Kobe took it to Brewer last meeting and will need to do it again. And the Lakers bench will need to play like it did in the fourth quarter again.

Tonight’s Game: Where At Least We’re Not All Knicks Fans Happens: A back-to-back with travel going up against one of the NBA’s best teams is not a recipe for success. The good news is that the great play of the Lakers bench last night means that Kobe, Odom, Fisher, Bynum and others got plenty of fourth-quarter rest.

Still, it’s hard to predict a Lakers victory here. What I want to see is a good game and good effort, not a young team that takes a night off.

Where you can watch: Game time is 7:30 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles we get a choice: KCAL (9) or ESPN. I’m still not quite sure why Joel Meyers is better than Paul Sunderland and that change needed to be made, but I’ll take Joel and Stu over just about anyone at the WWL. Nationally, you don’t have a choice. Sorry.