Preview and Chat: Utah Jazz

Kurt —  March 20, 2008

Records: Lakers 46-21 (1 seed); Jazz 45-24 (4 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.7 (4th); Jazz 114.5 (2nd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.4 (5th); Jazz 108.2 (14th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf
Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur

Tennis Anyone? I’m going out to Palm Desert for the weekend to watch the last couple rounds of the Indian Wells tennis tournament (the Pacific Life Open, on your local Fox network). I mean, I don’t want to go, but if my wife is forcing me to go look at teenage Russian girls in short skirts, who am I to say no? For me it will be a weekend of tennis and then going to a bar for lunch to watch my NCAA pool crumble, so no new posts from me until next week. However, a few of the regular favorites around here may pitch in.

Because I’ve got packing to do this will be short today. Not that I’m an efficient packer with the tourney on….

Lakers Notes: Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again, and so it is that it turns out my hunch that Phil Jackson was trying to take some pressure off of Andrew Bynum was correct. Turns out the kids should be ready to get some minutes in about two weeks, coming off the bench for half-a-dozen or so games to end the season.

The best part of that is being able to get some minutes with Bynum and Gasol on the floor at the same time, a lineup we are going to need to come through against some teams in the playoffs.

The Jazz Coming In: We got some Jazz questions answered by the men behind the My Utah Jazz blog (and check out my answers to their questions, where I defend Fisher).

Why the Jekyll/Hyde routine with this team between the home (29-3) and road (16-21)?

Million dollar question. While the cat’s away, the mice will play? Time for Jerry to institute his famous curfew apparently. How crazy is this: The Jazz have lost to every Eastern conference non-playoff team except Milwaukee. Are you kidding me? This team always seems to come prepared for the big games against playoff caliber teams, but they struggle against lesser opponents. The ESA is a tough place to play because Utah fans only have one team to get riled up for. I haven’t been to Staples, but I have been to the Pepsi Center, and it didn’t come close to the energy at…um….Energy Solutions Arena. The players seem to feed off of the crowd.

What is Kyle Korver providing on the court that has helped out the Jazz offense so much? Is it just a matter of finally having a shooter that can really spread the floor?

I have had this question on a few other chats with bloggers. All I can say he is has gone from Zero to Hero. The guy was the Jeff Hornacek of this decade. His ability to spread the floor, combined with Memo’s recent outbreak gives the Jazz 3 VERY good 3-point shooters. Andrei is a great slasher, and of course the Booze Hound owns the post. Everything has clicked. The other thing the trade did was cure the locker room of the cancer who is Gordan Giricek. Kyle is a J-Slo type of guy, while Gordan was a thorn in his side. I think Jerry has benefited the most from the trade and this has had a domino effect through the players.

The Jazz are not a bad defensive team, but they seem from the outside to be good some nights and bad others. What are they doing right when things work?

The Jazz are not a bad defensive team, however they are not a good defensive team either. AK47 is not having his best year (down on blocks and steals) and he seems to be in love with going for the steal rather than squaring up on his man i.e. Jefferson getting a free lay-up with 1.2 to win the game in New Jersey. Had Andrei stuck with him, he would have settled for a difficult jump shot. Thanks AK.

Boozer is a turntable. I don’t understand why efficient offensive players have a difficult time translating that knowledge into better defensive efforts. Memo is a liability and has “paint phobia”. Ronnie Brewer started the season off as the league leader in steals and his defense has left something to be desired since December. Probably the best on the ball defender we have is Deron Williams. I think his defense is underrated. As long as he can stay in front of the smaller quicker guards, they have a difficult time trying to get through him. His size allows him to fight through a lot of screens and stay in front of his man.

The Jazz have not lost when holding their opponent under 96 points. There offense is there on a nightly basis, it’s the defense that wins the big games for them.

I am excited about tonight’s game. I wish it wasn’t on national TV though because the Jazz generally perform poorly in this situation. Deron will try at least 3 ill advised alley oops in an attempt to make Sportscenters Top 10. The Jazz should prevail at home in a close game. Final Score: Jazz 114, Lakers 108 (Kobe with at least 42).

Last time these two met: The Jazz were without Okur and Boozer, and still whipped the Lakers something fierce. Utah scored 70 points in the first half. It was ugly.

Keys To The Game: The Lakers are going to need one of their better defensive efforts of the season tonight or they may well get run out of the building. Last meeting the Lakers acted like they had never seen a back-cut or dive to the hoop and the result was a lot of lay-ups and dunks for Utah. The Lakers have to be aware of those cuts and take away the easy hoops. If the Lakers play defense closer to what they did in the first half of the Dallas game they have a chance.

That is going to start with Fisher/Farmar stepping up and containing D-Will. I wouldn’t even mind giving Sasha some time there because if he is allowed to run the show without much harassment it will be a long night.

The Lakers bench, particularly Sasha (who will likely draw the Korver assignment for long stretches) need to be aggressive. The Jazz have been getting good bench play and the Lakers need to match that.

The Lakers are going to have to score in bunches tonight, the Jazz are the second best offensive team in the association and they are going to get theirs. One place to attack the Jazz is at Okur, which means a rare offensive night from Turiaf would be a plus. Also, Radman and Odom need to pull AK-47 and Boozer away from the basket. The Jazz are fierce defenders of the paint and pack it in, the Lakers sharpshooters need to be on tonight and shoot over that. When the Lakers do go into the lane they need to draw fouls.

Where you can watch: The game is at 7:30 pm on both KCAL (9) in Los Angeles and TNT nationally. Flip between this and UCLA crushing some poor suckers just happy to be there on CBS.