Savoring and Looking Ahead

Kurt —  April 29, 2008

You know the best part of the Lakers sweep? Wednesday night we don’t have to sit through any Major Payne promos, or to see how long Holly Hunter’s list is. Kyra Sedgwick, I have a confession for you — I don’t watch your show. Don’t plan to either.

Today is a day to enjoy a series win — these are not gimmes. Denver is no pushover team — they won 50 games and have two of the game’s best offensive players, plus they play a style that some teams have trouble adjusting to. A sweep for the Lakers is no small feat and should be savored.

Last night, for the first time in the series Denver played like the team we expected the Lakers to face — more aggressive on-ball defense (Camby doing this really seemed to both Pau) and much better ball movement on offense. Credit to the Nuggets for not just folding when down double digits for most of the first half.

But in the end, the Lakers discipline at both ends of the floor held sway. Plus LA had Kobe making key plays with the game on the line — and good ball movement when he gave it up (the wide-open Walton three late, and the passes that led to Gasol’s dunk to seal the win).

It wasn’t pretty, but we had better get used to that as we look toward Utah.

Lakers fans should try to watch Utah and the Rockets tonight (my DVR is set) and should pull for the Rockets — if this extends one more game it will be Friday night, then likely the Jazz will have to turn around and play the Lakers 36 hours later. We should take all the benefits we can get.

Starting tomorrow we’ll really break down this series, look at past games and talk about what the Jazz are doing now. It is supposed to get tougher each round of the playoffs, and it will for the Lakers for sure.

Here are a few other thoughts out of the comments to think about, starting with Kwame a.:

It will be a very physical series and unfortunately I think the refs will play a big role. 3 key places I see this happening

Pau on Boozer: If we stick Odom on the 3pt happy Okur, we will have Pau on Boozer and the Jazz would love to get Pau in early foul trouble.

Utah on Kobe: The refs will be key in determining just how physical Utah is with Kobe. They have allowed Utah to play tough with T-Mac.

D.Fish on D.Will: Fish will need to be able to play physical with D.Will to match-up with him. Also, I think the primary other cover for D.Will needs to be Sasha (or Ariza). D.Will punishes opposing PG’s with his physicality, the refs will definitely have to find boundaries for how physical the series will be.

And Darius, who echoes some of the same themes:

What we need to understand about Utah is 3 fold. They may not be a strong defensive team, but they are a physical team. They lead the league in fouls every year. The Lakers are going to have to play through that physicality and get used to not getting every call, especially when we play in Utah. Refs get intimidated by that crowd. Phil knows this too, he mentions it every year we go to Utah. Utah is also extremely talented on offense. They have a diverse attack with a lot of weapons that can hurt you. Williams, Boozer, Okur, AK47, Korver, Millsap, Harpring, Brewer….all these guys can get Utah buckets and do it in diverse enough ways that our defense will be tested. Utah is a disciplined team on offense and the run motion sets…so while we got used to playing pretty good defense against Denver’s Iso sets, we will have a significantly more difficult challenge putting the clamps on Utah’s attack. Also, have we really improved our P&R defense? We will find out this series. The P&R is the staple of the Utah offense and they can score off it in a variety of ways. Williams can shoot the J or drive the hole. Boozer can roll on a dive cut, pop out and shoot the midrange J, or slip the screen and either dive hard or stop short for a lane jumper. Basically, we are going to have our hands full.

Have we tradtionally beaten teams that try to outscore us? Indeed we have. But this series is going to be much more difficult than the one we just played. We are going to be facing a team that matches up with us well and has a deep enough bench where we probably won’t have a decided advantage at any one position besides Kobe’s. Utah is not a team that we can take lightly, look past, or think is going to be any sort of easy out.

Kurt

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73 responses to Savoring and Looking Ahead

  1. I concur that Utah is indeed physical but they do not have the “enforcer” type defenders that make me tremble. By all means I am not thinking little of Utah. As a matter of fact, I like them better than Houston because I believe that if we are to be champs, we should face the real competition and stop making excuses such as “wait till Drew is back” or “the refs ate their whistles”. In the end, its all about competition and this year, in the Utah series, we will see the Lakers show up or roll over.

    Utah runs the PNR to death. Something that has more to do with us rather than them. Many teams run this but the “under” man is not as big and as excellent as DWill. So this is a problem. We will need to address this or else Utah is going to the WCF for the second straight year.

    Guys, Utah is a type A team. Otherwise, why the heck are they in these playoffs (and the WCF last year) if they aren’t. However, to our delight, we are a type A+ team. Without Drew, we are a tad behind what we would like to be but as is, we are a better team and we have the home court. To say we will “cruise” against Utah is to be overly cocky and not optimistic. But again, as Emma inquires about, is it blind’s faith?

    The answer is no.

    Game 1/4 was at the start of the season at LA. Highlights include Andrew Bynum showing up for 15/9 off the bench. Kobe scored 33-5-3-3-2 with 5 TOs on 13/19 shooting. Boozer had 23/12 while Deron had 26/5 dimes. Lakers won by 10.

    Game 2/4 was at Salt Lake. Boozer and Okur are absent but Utah countered with AK47’s triple double of 20-11-11-6-4. Naturally, we won’t be seeing this from AK since Booze and Okur are expected to suit up. Deron was his usual monstrous self scoring 35pts on 14/24 clip. Kobe had 28-4-3 but the Lakers were outrebounded 48-34. Utah claims this by 24.

    Game 3/4 was played at Staples with the Lakers winning in 3 quarters. This was Phil Jackson’s milestone tying Red Auerbach’s win record. Kobe totaled 31-4-7 while resting the whole of the 4th quarter. The final score lead was 14pts but the Jazz outscored the Lakers 35-17 in the 4th. The winning margin was 32 at the end of the 3rd. Trevor Ariza was in this game and we held Deron Williams to only 6pts. Hmmmmm.

    Game 4/4 had plenty of meaning. Utah was white hot at home thus securing the playoff berth at 4th. But the Lakers had other plans other than extending their home win streak. Lakeshow beat this Utah team WITHOUT Drew, WITHOUT Trevor and WITHOUT Pau ON THE ROAD. Lamar Odom showcased this game with a 21-12-6 performance beside Kobe’s 27-8-7. Deron tallied 26-7-12 and Boozer had 23-15 in the losing effort.

    If you ask me, the Lakers consistently beat Utah convincingly this year, all 4 games without PAU, all but one win without Trevor and Drew. Kobe gets MVP-like numbers when playing against them with an average of 30-6-5 on these 4 games, having played only 15 quarters.

    The interesting fact is Jordan Farmar’s strong play against this team. He is averaging 15ppg against the Jazz.

  2. One thing that concerns me re: Utah — the Lakers got outplayed in the paint by the Nuggets last series. Utah makes its living inside and the Lakers must do better on defense.

    Also, while I agree they don’t play great defense Darius is right, they will bang the Lakers around. LA has to get used to it and play through it.

  3. Will Bynum and Ariza be back for this series? If so, we wont lose.

  4. Anybody notice how Pau has been hesitant to taking a big shot the last few games of the series. When he gets the ball at the top of the key he ALWAYS looked for a pass in the 4th quarter. Particularly to Kobe. He should be taking that shot (they give him the room).

    Anyways I was wondering if anybody else noticed this…or if it was just me.

  5. Bynum won’t be back…Ariza possible if the game goes 7 games. But I won’t expect him to be much help till late Westerner Conference.

    He broke his foot. Lateral movement is going to come back slowly for him and that is exactly how he would help us. He would have been great to put on Deron if he was fully healthy…but just coming back he won’t be able to hang with Deron.

  6. 3- My educated guess, Bynum is not coming back, at least that’s how the Lakers must proceed. Ariza should be back for this series, we’ll see how Phil re-introduces him into the lineup, he may be our Korver-stopper.

  7. Despite what the media is saying today (Denver is so bad, etc. – no credit to the Lakers), last night was VERY impressive – a young team, that already wins game 3, comes out, loses a lead and executes in the 4th quarter to win, on the road – not too bad. Look at what San Antonio did in Phoenix in game 4.

    The Lakers’ top two scoring threats – Kobe and Pau – are more explosive than Williams and Boozer. Kobe and Pau can explode for 60 to 70 points in a game, Boozer and Williams, probably only 50 at most. This means that controlling Okur, AK47, Korver, etc. is the key. The pick and roll with Boozer and Williams will do its damage, but without the one or two role players putting up some numbers, Utah can’t keep up with the Lakers. Usually, Okur gets open because people get so caught up in containing Williams that the floor opens up.

    To control Kobe and Pau will necessarily open things up for other players.

    The other thing is to control the boards. If The Lakers hit the defensive boards and limit them to one shot, Utah will just not have the firepower to win. But if Millsap, et al, break down our front line at the rim, it could be trouble.

    But it will take a disciplined determined effort to beat Utah – no question this is a real test.

  8. All of these previews and such are great; it really shows what the Lakers have to do to pull out a series win against Utah.

    What I would like to see, however, is what Utah would be wanting to do against the Lakers. I feel that sort of insight (maybe from a Jazz observer, maybe not) could be very useful.

  9. Biggest concern for me about the Utah series is rebounding. Denver outrebounded us in every game of the series and got 17, 15, 15 and 19 offensive rebounds in the 4 games. Against a team as offensively efficient as the Jazz, giving up extra possessions like that will kill us. They don’t have a guy like Camby, but Boozer can be a monster on the boards.

  10. And now…I get to enjoy a 2nd round with the Lakers…that feels really good to say!!!

    Savor…..yummy!!! Nice win. Nice that Denver put it all out there…and did all they could to win…and had the lead…and then the Lakers just excuted better on both ends of the floor. The media can say what they will about Denver…and while I will agree with C-Webb and KSmith that there is no real team in that team…they certainly have something to have won 50 games and make the playoff in the Western Conference…they are no slouch of a ball club…but not a cohesive team…like the Lakers are proving that they are. Much applause guys…much applause.

    Do you think Phoniex is was watching Celtics/Hawks last night…thinking “why did we let Joe Johnson go? heck…why did we let Marion Go!!!! I say we stake Kerr to the ground and let the desert heat and buzzard do away with him!!!”

  11. I am confident that they Lakers can beat Utah in about 6 games. The main thing that we have to do is protect homecourt because it’s going to be hard to win one in Utah. Thank goodness that we have homecourt advantage.

    Williams and Boozer are going to get their numbers. The key is going to be to stop the role players, especially Okur. The Lakers should not even allow him to sniff the 3 point line. Same with AK-47 and Korver.

  12. Cue the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Magic Johnson” and enjoy a series win for the first time since….
    L.A. Lakers, fast break makers, kings of the court shake and bake all takers.

    Hmm, it’s sad we won’t get to bust out Ice Cube’s “the Lakers beat the Supersonics… today was a good day” any more.

    We sweep, everyone else has to play a little longer. All things that bode well for us in future rounds. Who would have every thought Atlanta would hold home court and Detroit would give it up to Philly? Just makes the West look even stronger.

    Lakerland: where sweeps happen. Where bring on Utah happens. where luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuke happens. Where #24 happens. I love this game!

  13. The Jazz will not be a pushover, but I can’t be too frightened by a team that runs so hot and cold between the road and in Salt Lake.

    The poor road record is a sign of weakness — one the cynical fan in me believes is based on the fact that the Jazz get away with murder at home, and have for years going back to the days when Malone would get free throws for kicking a defender two feet away to draw a “foul”. Take away that edge, and they’re not as intimidating.

    The Lakers’ March win in Utah said a lot. They’d lost Pau at the start of a tough four-game trip, hung tough before falling in New Orleans and to the streaking Rockets, then found a way to beat Dallas at home and spank the Jazz in Utah. That was a sign that this year’s Lakers had some guts.

    Props to Radmanovich, by the way. His shooting was awful, but he played good D that the TV hacks seemed to overlook. They also overlooked the fact that the Lakers swept Denver without a key contributor in Turiaf, who really wasn’t missed. Says a lot about the depth.

    And since Kurt kicked things off with a slight knock on TBS, did anyone else laugh when Marv Albert said this was the Lakers first playoff sweep since Portland in 2002? (He’s the Nets announcer, must have selective memories about the Finals that year). And what’s up with Magic mispronouncing the last names of Pau and Sasha repeatedly on “Inside the NBA”?

  14. 11, easy to say to stop Okur and get their role players off the 3 point line but has that been the Lakers defensive philosophy all year? Not really, they’ll pack the lane to stop DARE-in from driving and Boozer from posting up and Korver/Okur will get 10 attempts from 3 each..

    I think I am more pessimistic on this series than anyone else here, I can easily see it going 7 and perhaps a Utah series victory…Deron has Laker Killer written all over him and unlike the Hornets with Chris Paul, even if we’re able to shut him down guys like Boozer and AK match up extremely well..Bynum would be REALLY nice to have this series

    This will probably the series that gets the talking heads to admit Kobe is MVP, it’s going to take some vintage Kobe-esque performances to get this team to the WCF

  15. @10 It wasn’t Steve Kerr that let Joe Johnson go (among others like say…Luol Deng). D’Antoni needs to be fired.

  16. 15, I don’t think that’s D’Antoni either..that has cheap ownership written all over it

    Is Phoenix exactly a sports fandom hotbed? Not really, Cardinals (NFL) and D’Backs (MLB) don’t scream financial powerhouses, so they are probably on a tight budget to begin with. As Laker fans we are pretty lucky we have a) an owner thats willing to spend and b) a city willing to pay to support it. The bottom line will always come first and I can’t blame them, but it is really kicing them in the groin…Joe Johnson, Kurt Thomas, Luol Deng, and Rajon Rondo/Jordan Farmar would all be really nice for the Suns to have right now

  17. Chris J., the cynical fan in me sees Kobe shooting 20 FTs, half of which are earned, whether in LA or SLC.

  18. Jazz fan here. First off, mad props to all of the intelligent comments here. None of the “We are the best and everyone else sucks” crap you commonly see on these sites. Well done.

    Due to bad luck I wasn’t able to witness the first three games this year between our two teams, but I was at the last one where you guys handily beat us at home. That game alone has me quite worried. Nothing was worse than sitting there at the end of the game with an empty stadium except for Lakers fans chanting “MVP!!” Just terrible.

    Someone asked, so here are my thoughts:

    Kobe will always get his points. The key is how many shots it takes for him to get them. T-Mac, while not on the level of Kobe, has been fairly limited in this series even though he has put up his usual numbers. I would assume we will approach Kobe the same way. Of course there will be a little physicality involved. This is the playoffs, and if Kobe gets frustrated and tired like T-Mac, then we have accomplished our goal. If Kobe gets angry and takes over, all we can do is hope he misses the shots. As I watched the Lakers this series, it really occurred to me how well you guys have been moving the ball. If Kobe gets too distracted and reverts back to ball hog Kobe, you guys might be playing right into our hands.

    Numerous players on your team can pose a threat offensively, so if I were Sloan I would definitely mix it up with Deron guarding Kobe, Boozer on Pau, and AK on Odom. This would not be full time, but stick someone quick and strong on Kobe would help.

    Deron has played well against the Lakers this year, but in return your guards have also done well. Fischer knows a lot of Deron’s tendencies having played with us last year (side note – I did cheer for him this year when I was at the game) and is strong enough not to get manhandled by him. Farmar has also shown a lot of energy when matched up against him. Sasha…I don’t know what to say about him. I focused solely on him when I was watching in person, and he is the type of guy that opposing teams love to hate. Hopefully his antics don’t get into the Jazz’s heads – especially Deron’s.

    Boozer and Okur could limit Pau with their strength and size. Everyone knows Boozer can bang down low, and historically Pau has been known as a soft player. Okur, while known for his 3′s, is actually pretty effective when he goes inside. They key with both of them is going up strong rather than going up in an attempt to get fouled. I believe this is the number one thing that has hurt us in the Houston series. If the layup is not there, we need to take a 5 foot jumper. Too many times we have been needlessly and easily blocked down low. We will see how well Pau can defend, because your front line is not as menacing defensively as Houston’s.

    The whole thing with the Jazz being a bad road team is a bit overrated if you ask me. We have beaten many quality teams on the road this year and have come close a few other times. I would chalk it up to us being a young team rather than being a bad road team. Bringing the same energy every night – even on the road against a bad team – is something veteran teams do better. We have gotten up for most big games this year though, and winning the first two in Houston was a good example. You guys will do well at home, but it’s not like we will roll over on the road.

    As a Jazz fan I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but assuming we beat Houston we are definitely looking forward to playing you guys. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.

  19. As a Jazz fan, I can tell you what the Jazz will try to do in this series:

    1. No one in this league has an answer for Kobe, but the Jazz will use Brewer, AK, Harpring and Korver (who has had some surprisingly good games defensively lately) on him, changing things up and giving him different looks. It will not stop him, but they will make him work on both ends of the floor. The Jazz will try to frustrate him, which can happen, although he will not rattle anywhere near as easily as McGrady.

    2. The biggest concern for the Jazz will probably be the combination of Odom & Gasol. The Jazz will likely try to get Gasol in foul trouble by posting Boozer (and sometimes Millsap or Okur) and forcing him to work defensively. Bynum being out will be HUGE in this series.

    3. The Jazz have improved their outside shooting and will use Korver, AK, Okur, D-Will, etc. to space the floor offensively and open up the middle. Pick and rolls and lots of motion/screens will continue to be a staple of the offense, as will working to get high-percentage shots and not settling for jumpers.

    4. Depth will be important for the Jazz. They have caused a very good Houston defense a lot of problems by playing 9 guys who can score in a variety of ways.

    5. The Jazz have been starting games slow and finishing them strong. They will need to correct this to have a chance against the Lakers, who have much more firepower than Houston and are more capable of taking advantage of early miscues.

    6. Utah will try to control the boards in an effort to limit second chance points for the Lakers and get as many of their own as possible.

    7. Utah still has to finish off Houston first.

    A lot has been made of Utah’s road record, which is undoubtedly a weakness, however they have actually done very well on the road against good teams, getting big wins in tough arenas. If anything, they are guilty of relaxing too much against lesser teams on the road.

    The Lakers match up well against the Jazz, and vice versa. It should be a tough, physical series. The Lakers will be the favorites, but it will be a tough series that could go either way.

  20. Sorry to break to you guys, but the Rockets aren’t done yet. If they win tonight, all the pressure is on Utah to win game 6, and if they don’t game 7 is in Houston. Houston also finished with a better record than Utah. I know Phil jackson isn’t necesarily working on a game plan for Utah just yet, and neither should we. Don’t count out Houston and their tenacious defense.

  21. Thanks for the Jazz perspective Ryan,

    I think you are right about the Jazz being overly criticized for their percieved road woes, I think they are overstated. However, I think you underate our front-court defense. We have great length on the front-line and Pau is much more physical than the national media gives him credit for. Vlad (6’10), Lamar (6’10) and Pau (7’0) is one of the few front lines in the leauge that matches the height and length of the Jazz front-court. We used to use Kwame to guard Boozer, and I anticipate Pau being used on him this series, so Odom can guard Okur. I think those two (Pau and Odom) can match Okur and Boozer, and Kobe will push us over the top. Should be fun…provided the Jazz close out

    Louis-Right now Phil is having the video staff collect tape for both teams, but probably starting to look at some Jazz stuff, no rest for the coaching staff, these are the crucial days where opposition tape is broken down and series game plans are developed.

  22. Thanks, Ryan.

  23. I would argue that it may not be a disadvantage if Utah wins tonight. I think you commonly see teams come out a bit rusty and lathargic when they have lots of rest, whereas a team that just played friday would be “in rhythm” of sorts.

    That may seem counterintuitive, but I really think that our coaching staff is excellent at preparing and in game adjustments. Likewise, I would rather face a Utah team that has been thinking about playing us, Kobe, Pau, Lamar, for a bit. I think at their level the amount that you are tired is negated by being such great athletes, but having momentum is a big intangible.

  24. This Little Pinky April 29, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    The “Fisher Leaving Utah for L.A.” story is going to be even more intriguing if the Jazz win their first round series.

    Isn’t that just serendipitous for the Lakers? They will have a guy who was on the team that they are preparing for, and he was on the team only a year ago.

    Don’t you think that’s going to help the Lakers just a little bit, that Fisher can give the inside scoop? I know that there is video, and everybody in the league knows what Utah runs, but Fish is going to be able to give firsthand knowledge of what to expect, the Utah mindset, and their tendencies. A nice little advantage, I’d say.

  25. The relevant question is how the Lakers will match up with Houston. I personally think Mutumbo will destroy Pau – and we already know that Shane owns Kobe. The Lake show is really gonna have to dig deep to compete. GO LAKERS

  26. Ryan & B.J. — Thanks for the info. What SLC blogs do you guys frequent?

  27. This Little Pinky April 29, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Basically, the Lakers assistant coach scouting Utah should finish his report, hand it to Fish and ask,”Is this OK? Is it right? Anything you think I should add?”

  28. The lakers are a scary match up for my Jazz. I always hate going against a team that has a player that can take a game over in the last few minutes.

    I think the key to this series is the paint and the bench. Whichever bench steps it up will give their team a huge advantage. If Gasol gets into foul trouble guarding Boozer (if boozer decides to be aggressive and not take 15 foot jump shots) then that really helps out the Jazz. Turiaf and Mbenga just aren’t the offensive threats that Gasol is which gives us the ability to clog the lane when Kobe goes to the rim.

    As for the road/home split, we did beat Boston, Pheonix, NO, houston (2x’s so far in the playoffs alone) etc on the road. It’s just teams like Minnesota/NY/Miami that we can’t seem to beat. We have the 2nd best record in the league since January 1, and had we gone even 500 in December (we went 4-12 I believe) we would have had the #1 seed in the west.

    This series will be a battle for sure. WCF in the 2nd round.

  29. Cody- Great point about the benches. Both teams have weapons of the bench (Harpring, Korver, Milsap, Farmar, Sasha, Luke) and the 2nd Unit that prevails may also be a factor that tips the balance.

    Hope the Jazz aren’t daydreaming about the Lakers, I expect the Houston crowd to be loud

  30. The “Utah as a weak road team” stuff is dangerous ground – the Jazz only need to win 1 out of 4 road games (25%) to win this series. The Lakers, in my opinion, need to win at least one road game to win.

  31. 20) I bet that’s exactly what Adelman is telling his players.

    29) Why not? I want them to lose focus! :D

  32. 31- You’re right..I retract my concern for their concentration.

  33. inwit, by having home court advantage, lakers by definition don’t HAVE to win at Utah. That being said, I think Utah is doing much better on the road than people give them credit for and I think every game will be a challenge in this series, if it is Utah.

    Anyways, lakers have proven they can beat Utah at home, and that was without Gasol. Then again, Utah has also beaten us without Boozer.

  34. MC Welk — I wholly agree with your thoughts on undeserved free throws given to superstars. Again, the cynical fan in me speaks, but that’s always been my biggest knock on the NBA: the rules aren’t level so stars get calls scrubs don’t, veterans get the benefit of the doubt while rookies are called for fouls, and you can bet the home team will get the favorable ref treatment more often than not.

    With the exception of the NFL and its outright efforts to screw the Oakland Raiders at every possible turn, there really is no other major sport that tweaks the rules the way it’s done in the NBA. Jordan’s shove of Bryon Russell in ’98 may have been the only call the Jazz didn’t get in the Delta Center.

    But I still love the NBA, flaws and all.

  35. This will be a long series. As others mentioned, rebounding is a key factor – we were seriously abused by the Nuggets. I mean, I’m kinda shocked that we swept that team; you really can’t do that if you are beaten so consistently on the boards and give up offensive rebounds.

    Against Utah, it’s Okur drawing our best rebounder out of the paint. We’ll have Gasol compete with Boozer for rebounds, and, uhm, Gasol really isn’t known for his rebounds, while Boozer was one of the most consistent double-double player in the league. Maybe Gasol will have to defend Okur while Odom tries to match up with Boozer…

    As for AK, at his best, he’s as versatile as Lamar although with different strengths. But thankfully he is also as fragile pychologically, so there may be ways to exploit that. But we did see him torch us during the blowout, so he can ‘explode’ too.

  36. First, I welcome the good cooments from the Jazz fans. We try to steer clear of blind homerism here, so excuse the few who indulge in that from time to time.

    I agree that Utah’s road woes are overstated. I saw them handily beat Boston and Phoenix on the road. But I still think it will be a factor. When playing at their best, I think LA and Utah are pretty evenly matched, with LA perhaps having a slight edge because of Kobe and better depth. One difference is that LA plays almost the same at home and on the road (30 wins vs 27 in the regular season; same production against Denver). I think Utah, although strong on the road when focused, still is prone to playing a little below their ceiling on the road. Combine this with LAs extra home game, and LA should have a little head start in the series.

    On the front courts, I hope Odom matches up with Boozer and Pau with Okur. Both because of the rebounding issue mentioned by Harold and because Odom is so superior a pick and roll defender (perhaps Pau’s biggest flaw). I’d love to see someone with length take Deron (Kobe, Ariza) so that switching on the pick and roll isn’t disastrous.

  37. I don’t see how either team stops the other offense.

    Utah is often a half step slow on interior rotations, which will be exposed by the terrific passing of Paul and Odom. They also don’t have anyone to match up with Kobe. (an AK/Brewer combination could be good, but Brewer is young and AK is due for a Section 8).

    On the flip side, I think the Jazz offense will punish a soft Laker frontcourt. LA will be badly outrebounded by the best offensive rebounding team in the game.

    I think the Lakers’ best strategy is to put Kobe on Deron. He could shut him down like he did Barbosa in the World Championships last year. Preventing Deron from driving or feeding the ball inside will help the interior defense a lot.

    The Jazz have to find a way to stop the Lakers’ ball movement. There’s no way to really stop Kobe, but the Jazz have to get him and the rest of the Lakers to settle for jump shots rather passing the ball to get layups. I think that’s the only way Utah can exploit its rebounding advantage and slow the Laker offense.

  38. The problem with putting Kobe on D-Will, particularly early in games, is you run a big risk of foul trouble. D-Will is quick and strong, and if I saw that matchup and I was Sloan I’d have him go right at Kobe. It may mean a few empty possessions, but the fouls would eventually come and that would be a big advantage. Plus, now you’re asking Kobe to play 40+ minutes as the man on both ends of the floor.

    If the Lakers chose to do this they need to pick their spots, like the fourth quarter.

  39. Two things, in first place, I don’t know why, but I think that Utah have a lot of trouble when the other team gets a big lead. I don’t remember them making great coming buck, but I could be really wrong on that.

    Secondly, someone in one of the latest posts point that Vujacic could be the next Manu Ginobili. It would be graet, but I disagree. Maybe Sasha could turn in a new Stojakovic.

    I really like the way Sasha is playing and I hope he’s stays whit the team but he’s a shooter, not a kind of scorer-playmaker like Manu is since he’s 20.

  40. Let cheer for Rockets today and Friday, and maybe Sunday too!

  41. Utah is a great team. Only great teams are left in the Western Conference at this point in the playoffs. Especially so this year.

    Playing Chris Paul, who had a pretty impressive triple double tonight, will be rough for any team. I am certainly happy that the Lakers earned homecourt for the Western Conference playoffs.

    Kobe is going to take this series personal. Fisher will play a big role in the series, and he looks very ready and confident.

  42. My best guess, Lakers in 6. I don’t want this to be a rubber match to the end in 7. I do hope it ends in 4 (and that would be a lot) or 5 games.

    I agree that Ariza won’t be in full strength to shut down DWill, so might as well stick him as a fork on the likes of Korver should he be back in time.

    I also agree that Kobe and Pau are way more explosive and way more a threat than DWill and Carlos. So it follows that the Laker D should not let other Jazz players hurt us. To me, the Lamar-Andrei matchup can be a deciding factor here. Andrei can have his stretches on both sides and we want to see Lamar be the consistent 3rd option he surely can be. If Lamar destroys the Jazz interior D or opens them up with his jumper (much to be desired), it can be over for Utah. I pray for a Phoenix 06-type performance from Lamar given the Jazz interior D is tough but not imposing. If that happens, it’s over.

    Like Phil, I do hope that Vladimir catches heat in this series. He needs that fire and I agree that he should be pushed to be more aggressive. The Laker bench can potentially outperform the Jazz bench. I am just worried if they go physical on the likes of Jordan, Sasha and Luke. I hope Luke stays hot and makes the right decisions (I won’t ask for more than those two things).

    I am concerned with the DFish-DWill (strength on strength and the ref’s calls) matchup and whoever guards Okur. If it is Lamar, I think he is capable of SHUTTING HIM DOWN. If that is the case, I wonder who guards Andrei. Kobe can lock down on Korver and that is why a healthy Ariza is key. I don’t expect Vladimir to hold is own against AK. I don’t know about how explosive Luke can be on D.

    All variables given, I like the Lakers’ chances. They are hot and they are less volatile and fluctuating in terms of consistency and focus. Let’s let them play ball and hope the Lake Show is on full gear with all that rest.

  43. Bulls fan here, just to put it on the table, but I read here b/c I love Phil, Kobe and am continually striving to better understand the Triangle (I was young when we ran it, and the league). I think Turiaf’s health and AK’s mindstate are the x-factors. I also think that if Kobe get the trophy next round it will focus attention and perhaps limit how physical Utah can be with him, at least relative to T-Mac.

  44. Though I still sting from Warren’s slight on his awards post (after giving him his “Luke Walton of this Blog” moniker), I’m dusting myself off and deciding to be the anti-Nugget. I’m not going to get overly-emotional and draw a tech or fight with my team/coaches in person and/or media. I’ll just move on…

    The edge in the inevitable Lakers vs. Jazz series is Fish. The Jazz are strong at home and they hate him passionately (and for no good reason, as has been discussed before here). The Lakers’ll lay it out there for their co-cap and get it done on the road in Utah. A split in both cities to open the series is likely and will play huge to our guys to finish and I’m projecting we win in six.

    That said, I hope Houston has the guts to play those guys to seven or so and maybe get us an Ariza or Bynum into uniform (no matter how doubtful that is) for the second round. I had to remind myself that this was the first time the Lakers got to a second round in four years. Humbling, just like Warren’s slight of me in his greatest hits post. I guess I’m not quite over that after all…

  45. memo to the Mavs, this is how you play an elimination game. looks like we’re going back to salt lake.

  46. Warren Wee Lim April 29, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    Fanalyst, I was too lazy to look up who actually “monickered” me Luke Walton but I assure you, it was not taken in offense. I actually laughed out loud that perhaps that move rejuvenated Luke’s play and look how competent off the bench he is now.

    I actually kinda like the idea now. Luke is really your typical non-athletic-but-actually-smart-and-useful guy. In the playoffs, he’s showing it when it matters. I still hope he develops into the Rick Fox kinda guy since we have him locked up for the next 6 years.

    Lastly, Fanalyst, take no sting in what we do here. We are a community and a very good one at that. For me, we are a family of Laker Fans from all over the world. Perhaps I am the 1st delegate from the Philippines.

  47. Warren Wee Lim April 29, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    45 – Kwame A.

    Yeah I agree. Laker Fans are Rockets Fans for a day, though I’m not sure I’d want Houston (if they pull a win in 7) against us. I’ve never been an Adelman fan but there’s something right he’s doing with that team.

  48. Warren Wee Lim April 29, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Look out NOH, Phoenix is putting up a game 5 in SA. If the Suns win this game, they have homecourt to protect in game 6 and that series could very well go to 7.

  49. Gotta love Houston. I can’t guess what their locker room is like, with Yao being down and T-Mac constantly having to bear that ‘no playoff series win’ title, but having the shared experience of stringing 22 (23?) wins in a row.

    I’d be happy with just half that, 12 in a row from this point on.

  50. Boozer has an excellent face-up game and can finish inside with either hand. Williams has a reliable jumpshot and has enough speed and strength to penetrate and dish or finish at the rim. I think what’s most impressive about both these stars is that they seldom if ever force anything.

    Because Kirilenko is their primary help defender, Radmanovic should get a lot of open looks. If he makes his shots, he hurts the Jazz; and if he misses open looks he hurts the Lakers. So, I’m going to ambiguously predict Radmanovic will do a lot of damage.

    Other notable Jazz players have both strengths and weaknesses. Okur and Korver can shoot from long-range; they create space on the floor, giving Boozer more room to operate down low; but they seem to have trouble guarding quicker players(read: Odom, Gasol, Kobe). So, their success on the court is going to depend a lot on how quickly the Jazz rotate, trap, and defend. Otherwise, they become liabilities.

    For me, the key to the series for the Lakers is defense. Against the Jazz, they’ll have to be mindful of their assignments and communicate with one another. This is a series where the coaching staff will play an important role; to withstand the Jazz, the Lakers will have to be prepared.

  51. Would I rather see the evil Spurs choke away a surefire series lead or watch the evil Suns knocked out in a pitiful 5 games? I feel very conflicted right now. I don’t even know if I’d rather meet the Spurs, Suns or Hornets if the Lakers were to make it to the conference finals. Basically I wouldn’t want to meet whoever could beat the other teams.

    I also wouldn’t give up on Houston yet. As we well know, putting away a team that has home court advantage when you ‘re up 3-1 isn’t a cake walk. Against phoenix, game 6 was the Laker’s big chance and they couldn’t do it, leading to the infamous game 7. If the Rockets steal the next game, they’d be at home with all the momentum…

  52. PHX seems to be playing just 6 players… can’t see how they can win the series, much less this game against SAS.

    Of course, if Shaq could shoot free throws, this would be a different game entirely. So much for his ‘i make them when they count’ statement. Tonight they count, big time.

    on an aside, IF we get to play the suns and it ends up being a close one… will PJ hack shaq?

  53. Man, watching Shaq shoot freethrows is painful. What’s weird is if you see footage of him in college, he has great form on them. How he devolved into a leaning shotputt I don’t understand.

  54. The Sun has set.

  55. I messed up setting my DVR so I didn’t get to see the Utah game (which bums me) but man am I glad I got to see the end of the Suns/Spurs game.

  56. 24 – I don’t know why I didn’t even think of that! You just made my day!! (But um … I guess the Jazz have to close out their series first.)

    WWL – Random, but I actually know a lot of Filipino Laker fans (here in L.A.). I feel like if I run into a Filipino, there’s a good chance he will be a Lakers fan. Any idea why that is? Outside of just general team popularity…

  57. Warren Wee Lim April 29, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Well so much for the Suns-Lakers WCF. Looks like its gonna be a good SA-NOH matchup in the other bracket.

    Ironic how we pegged the Jazz-Rockets series to be the shortest (after Utah went 2-0 on the road) and they turned out to be the only series that goes 6 or beyond. Interesting. We get the sweep when no one expected us to and Utah is struggling – even more surprising than our sweep.

    So its NOH-SA with LA waiting for its next opponent.

    Any predictions from hereonin?

  58. I… I don’t know how to predict the SAS/NOH series. Nothing about these two teams makes sense to me right now. The Spurs looked old. People wrote them off before the start of the playoffs, and even though we KNOW how good the Spurs are in the playoffs, they definitely showed signs of decline. And the Hornets? Man, I don’t even know.

    I can’t believe I’m feeling bad for the Suns and the Mavs, two teams I respectively hated and envied for the past several years.

  59. A bunch of decidedly un-clutch Nash turnovers and clanked Shaq Free Throws. It’s just like T.S. Eliot said:

    This is the way the Sun’s Season ends
    This is the way the Sun’s Season ends
    This is the way the Sun’s Season ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper

  60. http://youtube.com/watch?v=tmk30mvVz3Y

    Taken from the Dockers commercials on TNT…. I think the Lake-show has the Cali soul.

  61. @ 59

    The Waste Land is what’s going to happen after the Suns get exploded during the offseason =)

    Also, I like this stanza from the Hollow Men to describe the Suns’ series:

    This is the dead land
    This is cactus land
    Here the stone images
    Are raised, here they receive
    The supplication of a dead man’s hand
    Under the twinkle of a fading star.

    Fits really well, doesn’t it?

  62. Devin Harris in JKidd’s place would’nt have made much of a difference against NOH, although it may have affected their seeding and thus have altered matchups. SAS-DAL could’ve been possible, and PHX-NOH… and both would’ve probably led to better results.

    Anyway, I don’t think either deal was a collossal failure except that it probably cost them seeding. Shaq did fine and if Nash didn’t pick this game to have his off night, or if TD didn’t make that 3…

    now both teams face a LOT of questions in the offseason. I’m really curious as to which Shaq will show up next season, which is why i would NEVER trade for Shaq for more than a year.

    Everyday, Mitch is looking more and more like a genius. Not for the Gasol trade, that was just icing on the cake, but for sticking with the team and having a good feel as to what was working.

  63. I think the Hornets and Spurs are pretty evenly matched. I give a slight edge to the Spurs because of Popovich’s coaching acumen, with all due respect to Byron Scott.

    I think you’ve got to point the finger at ownership and the front office, with regard to the early exits of Dallas and Phoenix. Their high payrolls make any substantive personnel changes a challenge, so they’ll probably wind up with the same ineffective core of players.

    I’m going to visit the Mavs blog and drink their tears.

  64. Hahaha- 61- I think you can say about the Shaq (and Kidd) trade:

    Between the idea
    And the reality
    Between the motion
    And the act
    Falls the Shadow

  65. As the Rockets fan here,you’re welcome. :)
    Before the Playoffs I told a Laker fan I know from work that I thought Utah would beat the Lakers because of their physical play and ability to get into teams heads. I do not hold that opinion now as Utah has shown so many weaknesses in this series that I would not be suprised if the Lakers won in 5.
    Utah’s plus side includes Deron Williams,who is a great young PG who can take over a game(even w/his being hobbled as he is w/his posterior injury),a proven system,non-stop physical effort,borderline dirty play-clean dirty,if that makes sense-that is so constant that the refs start seeing that as Utah’s way and let the fouls slide,a team full og guys you hate on the other side but would love if they were yours and some d*** fine shooters. And they all go against Laker weaknesses. BUT….
    Utah’s reserves-except for Harpring-are very young. They can get flustered and do silly things and let the other team get on a roll.(Prob the main reason for road woes is they have so many young players playing key supporting roles and young players tend to disappear on the road and do very well at home.)
    While Utah has an excellent system of cuts,ball movement,etc.,they have a tendency to jack up quick shots and quick-shoot themselves out of games,esp if they fall behind.(Forgive me,but this is where the sometime lackadaisical Laker D can be an advantage,by luring the Jazz into quick outside shots.)
    Watching the series,I think I know why Utah has such mediocre defensive rankings despite playing physical and doing an excellent job of containing top wing scorers.(In the reg season they just play strict man,so Kobe,McGrady,etc can go off.They completely change how they defend in the Playoffs. And to a poster who earlier commented Utah doesn’t have physical players,so they can’t really be a physical team-first,you don’t have to have a muscle builders’ body to PLAY physical,you just have to want to do it and get up into another player every single possesion.Second,Okur,Boozer,Harpring are not featherweights.)
    Utah’s help defense on the initial penetration is excellent,but their weakside,off-ball rotations are horrible. The Rockets have not been able to capitalize on this as their “bigs” have shown a remarkable inability to score off the pass. Scola-until Game 5-has been so worried about getting his shot blocked he’s throwing fakes when no-one is close to him,allowing the D to recover.Hayes has no lift and Motumbo has to gather himself. The lakers shouldn’t have the same problems converting as Lamar is taller than the Rockets PFs and will dunk it and Gasol should feast on the steady diet of point-blank shots he’ll get. So long as Kobe is willing to pass instead of trying to force it into teeth of Jazz D the Lakers should be in great shape.
    All of the defensive focus on McGrady has allowed the other side guards wide open lanes to the basket. Unfortunately Head can’t even make a shot in his head and Jackson and Alston have not finished well,opting to throw up floaters.If Lamar will drive,he will rack up some nice dunks.
    The Kobt factor. McGrady has a bad knee and bum shoulder and is pretty much a shell of himself. But he is still able to get off his shot and drive almost at will. He just has no elevation left to finish strong. That is not the case w/Kobe. Any time Kobe wants to dominate the game,he can. For key stretches,if his shot falls,he will kill the Jazz. Not all game as that’s bad for the team. But he should be able to stop Jazz runs,take over the crucial minutes,get the team jump-started if it’s faltering. Since Utah’s only hope of stopping him depends on the refs turning a blind eye to a mugging,I believe Kobe will be able to take over the key moments during the series and lead the Lakers to the Western Finals.

  66. Sorry about the Kobt factor. Still a little hyped from Rockets win.

  67. Chris,
    International rules & refs don’t favor the offensive player like the NBA does, so don’t expect Kobe to be able to shut down a player like he did last summer. That is the biggest reason not to put Kobe on DWill for extended time in any Utah series.

    Of course, we have to wait and see how that series works out. Not only does Houston give Sloan the willies, but they also provide Phil with lots of tape to examine things that might work against Utah.

    Against Houston I think Gasol and our bench make the difference.

  68. This is the most intellegent board I’ve ever read.

    I’ve always ‘hated’ the Lakers – so my comment is rather sincere.

    You all may even turn me into a fan, in spite of Kobe…

    If the Jazz make it to the second round and the Lakers win the series, I promise to root for the Lakers.

  69. speaking of kobe……i was listening to the dan patrick show this a.m. and he had LARRY LEGEND as a guest (outstanding show for those of you who like dp). to quote Mr. Bird…”he (kb24) is the best player in the league and has been for the past couple of years………somebody told me that he had not won the mvp award yet. that made me feel like throwing my (one of..) mvp in the trash.”……..strong words coming from the likes of Larry Legend……

  70. As far as match-ups, I say put Luke on Okur (remember Phil using him on Brad Miller)? He’s got the toughness to deal with a center, plus Okur’s going to hang outside. Use Pau’s length to bother Boozer, and have Odom on Kirilenko, and play off of him if Kirilenko goes outside so we can take advantage of Lamar’s rebounding, since Kirilenko is not a good outside shooter.

  71. Larry Bird is such a freakin’ G. Last night I pulled up some youtube hightlights and WOW!

    At any rate… do we think summer camp is in las vegas again this off-season?

  72. New post up looking at the previous Jazz/Lakers meetings, although after last night I’m tempted to slow down the Jazz train a little.