First things first – The Jazz are a very good basketball team. To be honest, before the playoffs they scared me as much as either of the two teams remaining on the other side of the bracket. Maybe more, because our best antidote to what they do is named Andrew Bynum and he wasn’t playing.
That win was the latest chapter in a now-growing rivalry with the Jazz. And it’s one that’s going to continue for years – the Jazz, Lakers and Hornets are young teams that will be fighting each other for the right to play in the finals for the next four years or so.
But that’s the future and what we are focused on now is a few days from now, when the Lakers start the Western Conference finals. I don’t have a big preference between the two remaining teams, both present a lot of problems (like two very fast point guards, a long-running Lakers problem), and both teams play good defense. But both have things you can attack, starting with the Lakers are deeper than both of them and should win the battles of the bench. One other plus — just like last round the Lakers are resting up while their opponent will play Monday night then have to turn around 24 hours later off an emotional high and carry that two-thirds of the way across the country. That gives the Lakers a big boost for game one.
And here are some notes on the Lakers playoff stats:
Compared to the regular season, the Lakers are scoring 3 more points 100 possessions, their offense is really clicking. One key reason is they are doing better – they are getting more shots right at the rim. In the regular season, 64% of the Lakers shots were jumpers, 36% were in close, but in the playoffs that has increased to 40%. Obviously, you shoot a higher percentage in close, so getting more shots there means more points (even if we are talking just four shots a game, that likely means two more makes and four more points a game, and that matters).
That is making up for the fact the Lakers are giving up four more points per 100 possessions on defense. The reason there is the same problem in reverse – during the season the Lakers forced opponents to shoot jumpers on 65% of their attempts, in the playoffs that is down to 58%. Part of that is skewed by the Jazz, who can pound the ball inside so well. But protecting the rim is something the Lakers have to do in the next round. (The Lakers are also giving up more shots in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, but playing the running Nuggets and a Jazz team that isn’t afraid to run, that number is skewed.)
We’re not going to Hollywood like the Lakers to watch the game as a team. But we will be watching tomorrow night, and looking at the matchups and more.