A few things to think about on game day:
â€¢ Here is my big picture thought of the series â€” both of these teams have very efficient and motion-based offenses, no matter what they will hang some points on you, but the team that can play the best defense and force some inefficient offense will come out of the series. Part of that will be matchups, which will unfold as the series goes on. Utah will play defense in part through physical play, the Lakers have to be ready to defend the pick-and-roll and be smart on rotations.
â€¢ About that physical play, Darius said it well:
Understand Sloan and Phil have faced each other on several occasions in the playoffs and are very familiar with what each team wants to do. That means execution is king. In order to be efficient against a physical team like Utah, you must make every movement meaningful. By making hard cuts and good, quick decisions, we can make the Jazz reactive rather than proactive on defense. They will pick up fouls off the ball if we are making hard cutsâ€¦they will hold and grab off the ball if they are beat to a spot.
â€¢ Some other thoughts from Darius saying things I was going to but doing it better, so here you are:
*Itâ€™s been said before, but rebounding will be key. We need at least 4 to the glass (and usually all 5). We need to secure the ball before we can get out and push pace. One thing Iâ€™ll be looking for specifically is keeping AK contained on the offensive glass. Vlad is going to have to be a better rebounder this series because he will be guarding a more active player (in terms of overall movement around the court) than last series. Sure Melo was a much better offensive player (and overall), but you know where to find Melo on any given possession. Whereas AK is a roamer on the offensive end and likes to cut hard off the ball and always finds himself around the bucket. So Vladâ€™s awareness is going to be keyâ€¦and Phil has not called him a space cadet for nothingâ€¦so that is something to look out for.
*Please, Please, Please keep a level head against this teamâ€¦and it all starts with Kobe. In the last Utah game, we did a tremendous job of taking our anger and aggression (due to the Fisher booing) and channeling that into a focused attack. We canâ€™t get frustrated by Utahâ€™s physicality or any unevenness from the refs. We need to adjust to how any particular game is called and just move on. Kobe was king of the *t* during the regular season and some of it at the end of the season was due to a lack of the whistle on his drives to the hoop. Based off Utahâ€™s style, every foul will not be called (I actually credit them for there style) and we need to just understand that and play the game. Iâ€™m not really worried about Kobe, he knows the drill and is our General in this battle, but itâ€™s just something that we need to be under control.
â€¢ While weâ€™re doing quotes, Drrayeye had a great point about matchups:
Brewer clearly is at a disadvantage against Kobe. Okur has no chance against Gasol. One way or another, the help needs to come from AK47. If AK47 and other Jazz players compensate defensively, the Jazz are vulnerable to the kind of passing that the Lakers used effectively against the Nuggs.
Nonetheless, AK47 is the X factor for the Jazz. He can make plays on offense and defense that are outside of the general strategy of the Jazz.
â€¢ Okay, I give in, itâ€™s an all commenter preview. The final thoughts come from regular here Stephen, who is a Rockets fan and as so has seen plenty of Jazz basketball lately:
The Jazz ARE extremely physical. They get in your face and stay there for 48 minutes. They will constantly elbow, shove, jab and clutch and grab jerseys. They do it all game long and no amount of whistles will make them stop. However, they are not trying to hurt you and they donâ€™t try to throw you thru the floor. They do just enough to get you out of position for a rebound, to stop your cuts, to make you miss your shot and above all to get you so tired of trying to drive thru the teeth of their D that youâ€™ll settle for jump shots. They get a ton of offensive rebounds thru subtle shoves (a Boozer specialty) and heavy forearms to move you out, or they just lay their body on you and go for every shot. Boozer and Okur have strong hands and will rip rebounds away from you.
On offense they try to space the floor, let Williams and Boozer pick and roll you to death and the other Jazz-esp. Harpring-are quite good at moving w/out the ball. The team as a whole passes very well so the motion in their offense-esp. second cuts-is rewarded. They can get into trouble on offense when they get impatient and jack up quick shots. Generally, in an offensive set, the quicker they shoot, the worse the results.
Kobe can expect Brewer, Kirilenko, Harpring and Korver to take turns defending him. They will body him all game long as they donâ€™t care about foul trouble-theyâ€™ve got 24 to use. The Jazz will often drop whoever is defending the top of key for a quick double and rapid passing to opposite side will often result in very good looks as the Jazz hug the lane as much as possible on weak side. However the Jazz will try to close out, so a nice tactic would be subtle hint of shot and drive into abandoned area. This causes the Jazz to scramble and they often leave a big wide open near the basket. Quick ball movement from Kobe, followed by penetration should result in numerous Gasol/Lamar baskets. The Jazz have several players who will contest shots in the lane so you have to go strong. Boozer likes to try to rip ball away down low and can pick up fouls doing so.
Some quick thoughts on some Jazz role players: Brewer is a guy you cannot go to sleep on as he will quickly go backdoor or knock down a 3; Korver is a better athlete-and taller-than I thought. He had several frontal blocks and showed a very nice passing touch. He canâ€™t dribble worth squat; Price-the backup PG-hurt the Rockets at ends of 2,3Q with 3s,penetration and pull-ups. Farmar better be ready.
UPDATE: Good game preview up at SportshubLA.