Archives For May 2008

Live Blog Game 2

Kurt —  May 7, 2008

Another Nomuskles live blog.

Pregame
Kobe receives his MVP award in front of the Staples Center crowd. The TNT crew says that watching a person receive an MVP award fires up the opposing team. Let’s hope that doesn’t hold true tonight. Nomuskles-girl is currently taking an Organic Chemistry/Biochemistry exam so we’re gonna do the deed with an infamous Live Blog.

1st Quarter
Starting five for both teams is as expected. Kobe, Pau, Lamar, Radman and Fisher for the Lakers. Memo, AK47, Brewer, Boozer and D-Will for the Jazz.
11:52 – Fisher gets it started well with a quick two. Nothing but net.
11:26 – First defensive stand goes very well for the Lakers. They force a 24 second violation. And whoops. Lakers inbound to no one and it goes out of bounds. Utah reboots. Kirilinko nails a jumper from the left wing over the Space Cadet.
10:56 – The Space Cadet returns the favor from the top of the circle. Lakers up 4-2.
10:38 – Utah is being more deliberate than a contestant on Deal or No Deal. AK47 gets a nifty Arvydas Sabonis up and under to go. Tied at four.
9:46 – LO gets aggressive on a broken play. He makes a great spin move to take it around Boozer. 2 points.
8:52 – Lamar abuses Memo’s defense. A little shake and bake along the baseline earns LO a layup.
8:10 – Good defensive sequence here, which leads to a Kobe leakout. But Kobe can’t convert. Kirilinko’s length bothers the layup. AK47 gets the jumper at the other end. An efficient and quick start to this game offensively for both teams. This is the anti-Boston/Cavaliers game. Did anyone else see that? The YMCA all-stars could’ve beaten either of those teams in HORSE last night. Disjointed doesn’t even begin to describe that affair.
6:55 – Bad call. The ball was off Memo’s lazy leg but the refs give it back. Williams gets a wide open shot off the inbounds play but can’t convert.
6:40 – LO gets the ball inside and earns two free throws. This is a good point to pause and let everyone know that king sized duvet covers are grossly overpriced in my opinion. Macy’s is $300 richer today for what is essentially an oversized pillow case. Happy Mother’s Day! LO7 converts both of his free throws (GASP!). Lakers up 15 – 13.
6:11 – Great transition bucket for the Lakers. Could’ve been a dangerous outlet pass (for the Lakers) against other teams, but as we said, the Jazz transition D is lackluster. D-Will, Memo and AK47 trot back, rather than sprint back.
5:09 – Lakers use their Lucky Charms free prize to decode the zone defense. This earns LO a lefty layup over two Jazz defenders. Assist to P-Gas.
4:14 – Since it’s the 60th Anniversary, I wish the Lakers would honor more of their heritage and great history. The legends should be invited back to every playoff game.
3:38 – It’s Jack Black and Kyle Gass in purple and gold. The Lakers are playing Tenacious D out there! How about the power to kill a yak? From three hundred yards away…with MIND BULLETS? Kobe gets the steal from Mehmet and he’s fouled before he can get away. Jerry Sloan earns himself a fine by getting a technical.
2:52 – Lakers are up 25-15 as the Spaniard goes to the line for two shots. He misses both.
2:18 – Derek Fisher enjoys the passive non-pressure of the zone defense. He nails a left corner three.
2:05 – Son of Bill harasses Harpring into committing an offensive foul.
1:43 – Dfish is feelin it in his soul. He hits another left corner three. This time over a defender and about as high as he could get it without needing FAA clearance.
1:02 – Turiaf blocks the crap out of a D-Will lay-up attempt and when D-Will gets it back, he steps on the sideline. Turnover.
0:46 – Turiaf rewards Luke Walton’s unselfishness (or unathleticism) by nailing a jumper. Luke says “thanks for bailing me out of that one. I didn’t really want to go one on one with Harpring.”
0:00 – The quarter ends with the Lakers up 33-18. Eight to nothing run to finish the period. Well done good guys! Don’t rest on your laurels. Jerry Sloan will not tolerate laziness and he’ll get these Jazzers to make a comeback.

2nd Quarter
The Bill Engvall show looks about as funny as heartburn on the freeway. Jerry Sloan complains about the refs calling fouls when Utah puts their hands on the Lakers. Isn’t that the definition of a foul?
11:04 – Dan Crawford doesn’t care to watch the game. He decides to call a foul on Luke Walton for holding onto the ball at the same time as Mehmet.
10:50 – Wow. Luke just stuffs a Harpring post-up turnaround. Millsap picks up the ball and jams his way into the paint drawing the foul, and one. He makes the three point play.
10:30 – Korver isn’t paying enough attention. Price slipped trying to guard Farmar and Kover refused to rotate till it was too late. Farmar makes them pay.
9:55 – Lakers give up too easy a bucket off an inbounds play. 35-23 Lakers up.
9:36 – I’m not a big Korver fan, but leaving him wide open in the left corner in transition seems like an idea the US patent office wouldn’t recognize as having any use. Sasha drifted towards the middle to stop the ball and Farmar drifted towards the opposite side trailing behind DWill. Everyone else clogged the middle and left Korver to rule his own little fiefdom. We’ll call that area Korver’s Korner from now on. Speaking of Korver, am I wrong to read into it that Korver is just traded to the Jazz this year and he’s suddenly the most popular player on the team and he’s white? He freaking comes off the bench and plays crappy D and sometimes makes three pointers. D-Will and Boozer should be the fan favorites since they, you know, dominate. Am I supposed to believe that Korver just has this magnetic personality that everyone in Utah loves? Umm right.
7:55 – Price “took it like a man” as Jordan Farmar drove hard to the basket trying to draw the charge. Trade Farmar for Shaq and I wonder if Price makes the same decision. Farmar makes two free throws.
Millsap is a force tonight. He’s active on the offensive end. He shows a nice spin move inside and gets fouled as he makes the layup. Misses the freebie though.
6:37 – LO7 definitely bring more energy tonight. He’s showing activity on defense and offense. I’m not sure what happened in game one, but he’s back in regular form tonight. Errr…that is not to say he is like a transformer and previously he was in the shape of an 18-wheeler.
6:20 – Pau drops the sledgehammer. Hahaha. It was not exactly sledgehammer esque but it’ll do. Two points.
5:46 – Millsap gets another layup with a foul (I disagree with the call, but who am i?) The Lakers need to get him in foul trouble pronto fast. After the free throw, 45-35 Lakers up.
5:28 – Pau is doing a great job in the post tonight. Okur is putting up much less of a fight and Gasol is getting his.
5:06 – The Space Cadet tries to ride Mehmet like a Koala mother (face to face) as he falls for the pump fake. The big man makes two free throws.
4:34 – Mehmet makes a great first step attacking move around Gasol who had no idea Okur had that much speed in him. Layup. Someone brainwashed Okur into thinking he was freaking speed racer.
3:12 – Fisher fakes the pass around the perimeter and just fakes the defenders out of their shoes. He gets the 21 foot jumper to go. No one in the vicinity.
2:41 – D-Will gets a three to go with 2 seconds left on the 24-second clock. The Lakers played great defense but Korver made a great cross court pass to give him an open look. DWill’s first bucket comes at a great time for the Jazz. Coming back from timeout, TNT tells us Boozer and Williams are doing poorly on offense. D-WIll has 3 points, Boozer has 0.
2:16 – Korver does a great job sealing off the Machine and gets an easy dunk.
1:33 – A fast sequence of back and forth finished off by a Kirilenko layup over Odom in transition.
1:02 – Korver gets another over the top lob. Jazz coaches figured that Sasha’s haranguing defense could be neutralized by posting him up in the block. This is a great way to utilize Korver’s height advantage. We’ll see if he can continue to capitalize on these opportunities when that is not usually what he called upon to do.
0:22 – Pau gets a good dump off feed off a DFish drive. Gasol tries to go up with it and Collins, who’s in there because the NBA grants players 6 fouls before ineligibility, fouls him pretty hard. Gasol starts swimming through the air. I’m not sure what he was trying to do there.
0:00 – poor pass by D-Will to AK47. A better pass and AK47 gets a momentum building alley-oop dunk for the Jazz. Instead, it goes the other way and DFish gets off a decent shot at the buzzer. It’s no good. Dfish has that wily smile on his face during the interview going into halftime. He knows he’s got DWill’s number. 63-49 Lakers are sitting pretty for the second half.

Halftime
Charles is disappointed in the Jazz for not looking like they can beat the Lakers. EJ says “they look slow.” That was pretty matter of fact. I had to laugh. Kenny says the Jazz are settling for good looks, but not trying to punish the Lakers getting great looks. As a sidenote, I am happy for the Magic. They came out hungry and made it a series.
What kind of party is it? A block party.
Who’s invited? Everybody.
That cracks me up every time. I don’t know if I could ever get tired of it. Especially when it’s being said about D12, D.Ho, Superman, Dwight Howard.
This Public Service Announcement brought to you by nomuskles: If you haven’t seen Iron Man, go see it. Now. Don’t wait till the weekend. Go see it now. Seriously it was that great. Robert Downey, Jr. is absolutely fantastic.

3rd Quarter
10:50 – The quarter starts off with a lot of clunky shots. The long halftime hurts the rhythm. Deron Williams gets tagged in the nether regions as AK47 tips in his miss. He limps around the court while he tries his ovaries out.
9:42 – Jazz playing much better to start the half. Making their open jumpers and finding the open man. Here though, Lamar gets to the hoop and gets the foul and bucket. He misses the free throw though. Lakers up 67-57.
9:13 – Kobe found LO7 cherry picking after the airball/tipped shot. Lamar leaked out after challenging the shot and boozer wasn’t able to catch up. Great look up the floor by the Kobester.
8:40 – Kevin Harlan asks Doug Collins how he would guard Kobe Bryant “I would get three hard fouls and sit down.” While he’s blathering on Deron Williams makes a great move to get into the paint. Layup.
7:53 – Brewer benefits from a great feed by D-Will in transition. Single digit lead by Lakers. Lamar makes the quick layup at the other end.
7:25 – D-Will finds his way into the lane again and makes the layup. This is the Williams we’ve been expecting to see. The scary one.
7:07 – Pau says he might not be en elite defender but he’s not dead either. He roofs Brewer’s attempt out of bounds.
6:51 – Kobe drives HARD to the hole and AK47 and Mehmet are forced to foul. Mehmet is charged with the violation while helping his overmatched teammate. I don’t know if I buy this whole “look like they believe they can beat them” thing. This is not a bunch of players with their tails between their legs. But maybe I’m misreading this. Lakers force another turnover on a 24 second clock violation.
6:10 – the space cadet steps out of bounds and then walks back which allows kirilenko to get an easy layup. Pft. Luke gets up off the bench. He’ll come in at the next dead ball.
5:21 – Lakers up 14. 66-80. Timeout.
4:39 – The Lakers go into the Cleveland Cavaliers offense with Kobe playing Lebron. Kobe takes the Jazz on and makes a great bank shot. Degree of difficulty = ten of ten.
3:30 – Luke tries to give AK47 his Upper Respiratory Infection, because that’s the only he’s going to be able to keep up with the speed of Kirilenko. Tag you’re it. Foul on Luke.
3:12 – Kobe is triple teamed and emerges like a salmon from the flowing stream. I’m not sure how he made that one against three Jazz defenders. It was like he had an amnesia inducing charm as they forgot that he was in a position to shoot the ball. He made the defenders look lead footed and they were definitely not. He was just lightning quick.
2:35 – A bunch of Mormons just stood up and shouted “Yes, Please.” Because Deron Williams just threw down a dunk in semi-transition that will undoubtedly make tonight’s highlights. He pulled a Lamar right in Lamar’s grill. Nasty.
2:15 – Boozer picks up his fourth foul. 76-86 Lakers up but they need to be careful here. TV Timeout. Coming back, there’s a great anecdote shared by David Aldridge that Brian Shaw shared with him. Apparently there was a stretch where Phil did not yell at Kobe when they were teammates and Phil’s explanation was that Kobe was always in attack mode and Phil could not take that away from him. Interesting thought process there.
0:56 – Tricky moments here. Lakers are not slamming the door shut on this Jazz team. Jazz pull within 8. However, they do get a good stop on Williams penetration and DFish draws a sucky foul on Mehmet. If I were a Jazz fan I’d be a little bit annoyed with that call. It was all Fisher’s fault. Fisher makes the free throws. Williams turns the ball over quickly in the backcourt but the Lakers give it right back. 90-80.
0:16 – Great rebound by Lamar! Way to fight for it like he was Arnold in the Last Action Hero. This earns Fisher a three in the right corner.
0:01 – D-Will nails a three over Farmar despite the great heads-up play of Fisher to give the foul and get the Lakers defense set. 93-83 Lakers hanging onto the lead.

4th Quarter
11:15 – Vujacic nails a long two after Deron got his shot blocked/fouled on the other end (no call).
10:55 – D-Will drives baseline and draws the foul on Ronny. He’s got the right idea if you’re a Jazz fan (probably not if you’re reading this). He’s taking it to the bucket and being aggressive, putting pressure on the Lakers.
10:31 – Millsap gets himself a good layup inside. 87-95. Staples is a little quiet.
10:11 – Luke hits a big shot. Making the three from the right wing. Our bench has been big for us all year. Let’s watch as that experience during the year pays off here.
8:45 – Ronny makes a terrific pass but it was one pass too many. He threaded the needle but Pau wasn’t expecting it and he rushed the layup. In hindsight, Ronny should’ve shot the 18 footer because he was wide open. We’ll live with the unselfishness.
7:49 – 98-89 Lakers are still up after a Millsap second chance put back. Luke doesn’t get off a good shot and the Lakers are guilty of taking longer than 24 seconds to contact the rim. Timeout. I expect we’ll see the MVP back on the floor when we return. Utah may not win this game, but they are going to be tough at home. They’ll get a boost from the home crowd and the familiar surroundings. Just look at the Magic.
7:42 – Lakers decide they want to make it a little more interesting and spot the Jazz another point with a defensive three second violation.
7:31 – Millsap gets an offensive rebound and Harpring makes the Lakers pay. 98-92.
6:15 – Lakers dodge a bullet. Lamar turns the ball over. Jazz run the break but somehow miss the layup and the refs don’t call a foul even though there was some contact. Mamba comes back the other way and earns two free throws. He makes both. 92-99.
6:00 – Lamar gets called for a foul and screams like his best friend just died. It was more like a wail. Luckily, it’s just a foul. Boozer will shoot some free throws after the television prescribed timeout. He makes both. 94-99 Lakers.
5:39 – the jazz focus so much energy on stopping the Kobester that he is able to find the Machine on the right side for an open jumper. 101-94.
5:11 – Lamar does a great job defending the Williams/Boozer pick and roll. He came off his man to stop Boozer’s roll the bucket. Lamar blocked both of Boozer’s attempts.
5:02 – This is no time for lazy passes Mr. MVP.
4:55 – Fisher is money in the bank, shorty what’s your drank? He nails the three from straight on. 104-94. This was created by LO’s penetration off a Gasol feed from the pinch post.
4:26 – The Lakers create a turnover and Gasol earns himself two free throws. Pau makes one. The other one is missed but wouldn’t have counted anyway due to a lane violation. 105-94.
4:05 – Boozer makes two free throws. 105-96.
3:51 – Kobe found himself with a relatively easy shot because Lamar has vision. 107-96.
3:28 – Mehmet gives a great fake to make LO go flying by into the Lakers Girls but can’t convert.
3:01 – Pau almost plays great D on Kirilenko who draws the foul. He’ll shoot one. 107-99.
2:40 – Something out of nothing. The MVP is more than a magic man. He resides in the pantheon of Olympus. Sasha passes up the three after Korver chases him off the line. He has no options because he’s picked up his dribble except you-know-who springs free. Mamba probes for a couple dribbles and gets the double team leaning just a little bit and in that moment when the outlook is grim, the trap is about to spring and the shot clock winds down he wills his body through a chink in the double-team with a spin move that can only come from heaven’s kingdom. Zephyr creates a space where none previously existed for He is the chosen one. This gives Kobe a path to the lane but no path to the basket as Utah has a couple defenders to guard the Holy Grail. Kobe goes up to shoot but at the last possible moment he spots Pau with just a minute halo of space in the depths of the enemy stronghold. The MVP casts his magic spell of genesis. He creates, in front of you, me and a global audience, something as startling as Adam’s first breath. With a flick of the wrist the ball heeds Bryant’s indomitable will. It flies around Okur, to Gasol, who receives it and dunks it in one swift motion in a way few others could manage. It is in this moment we have all witnessed a virtuoso performance by one of the game’s all time greats. It is in this moment that the Lakers will find hope and the Jazz will only find despair. No matter how well the Jazz play the rest of the game, their fate will have already been determined by the one they simply call Him. Indeed, we are all witness. 109-99.
0:00 – Final score is 120-110, your Los Angeles Lakers.

Lakers/Jazz Game 2 Chat

Kurt —  May 7, 2008

On one side, it seems like all is right with the NBA world — Kobe got his MVP, the Sonics are staying in Seattle for another year, and we get a Laker playoff game at home tonight.

But know this — the last time Utah lost back-to-back games it was December. Tonight is going to be a real dogfight.

It’s going to be an interesting game of adjustments tonight — after practice the other day the Lakers sounded like guys ready to put on the foil and play some old-time hockey, while Utah players talked about not sending Kobe to the line as much tonight.

I expect Utah is going to change strategies on Kobe some, the “beat him down physically” strategy from game one failed (Kobe is not McGrady, he is stronger, gets rest and has better teammates to pass to on offense). Jazz players hinted they will go with more quick double teams and other moves (Carlos Boozer even talked about a zone) to try to get the ball out of Kobe’s hands. If the Lakers continue move the ball like we saw against Denver that is fine — the other Lakers should get good looks and thrive (although Utah is certainly better defensively than Denver, by a mile).

On offense I expect Utah again to try to get early foul trouble on Gasol by posting up Okur/Boozer (the Lakers switched a little on that), or get Okur/Boozer the ball on the wing and let them drive at Gasol. Pau needs to be physical without fouling and crash the boards hard. A lot of those same things apply to Odom, who will be key for the Lakers on the boards.

Utah is going to shoot better tonight, the key is to take away the easy baskets on back-cuts and the like. LA got lost on some of that last game. The Lakers aggressive defense in the second quarter pushed Utah out of their comfort zone, forced them to take longer jump shots, and LA needs more of that effort — and not to let up on it. Utah will not fold like a house of cards.

As has been said before, how the refs call the game will have an impact on the outcome, although even the very smart Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune is suggesting that the tape the Rockets sent to the league about how Utah defended McGrady in the last round may be impacting the calls on Kobe now.

There is a great preview from David Thorpe up at ESPN.com, a must read. He’s the best for a reason.

Enjoy the game, this is going to be a fun one. And hopefully at the end all will still seem right with the world.

Kobe Is MVP

Kurt —  May 6, 2008

The official announcement comes today at 2:30 in an NBA press conference. There is really only one thing to say here: Congratulations Kobe. A well deserved honor.

Breaking Down Game Two

Kurt —  May 5, 2008

First off, you can catch some of my thoughts on the series at the Hoops Addict podcast that just went up (also on there was a preview from the boys at My Utah Jazz). As a preview, Ryan asked if the Lakers could win a title without Bynum, I said I think this series is the real test of that.

Next, Reed’s comment post from yesterday deserves more run, so here it is in its entirety:

I think fans on both sides need to guard against homerish, post-game tunnel vision — we tend to interpret game results only in positive ways for our teams (i.e. if only X had happened, we would have won/won more handily). Remember, X didn’t happen for a reason, and it’s more likely what happened will happen again than the reverse.

*Kobe got to the rim at will and attempted 24 free throws. Lakers fans: par for the course. Jazz fans: we would have won if Kobe hadn’t been favored by the refs. Truth: the Jazz have weak perimeter defenders, foul a lot, and have no shot blockers inside. Kobe is going to spend a lot of time at the line and score fairly easily, even for him — this has been the case all season against Utah.

*The Jazz shot 38% and were far less efficient on offense than usual. Lakers fans: proof that the LA defense is top notch. Jazz fans: we would have won if we had shot like usual. Truth: somewhere in between; while the Jazz missed a lot of shots, LA’s length and rotations clearly had something to do with this. Aside from a few possessions, LA stayed with back cutters, prevented easy looks off of the pick and roll, stopped Deron from getting to the rim, and defended the 3 point line well — most of Utah’s possessions ended in long 2 point shots at the end of the shot clock (followed by an offensive rebound or three…). Fisher has been locked in defensively for the last few weeks and once Odom took Boozer, the Jazz didn’t have an easy advantage at any position (Boozer ate Gasol up in the first quarter though). Utah will score more than they did today, but will be more frustrated most games than they’d expect.

*Utah destroyed LA on the boards. Lakers fans: we’d have won by 25 if not for all the offensive rebounds. Jazz fans: we are a much tougher team. Truth: the Jazz are a much better rebounding team, with Bynum missing. They are stronger at every position besides SG, crash hard every possession, and will probably win the rebounding battle every game. LA’s job is to keep it close and eliminate easy put backs when they do get second chances.

*Gasol struggled to score on the block. Lakers fans: Pau had an off game (despite the numbers) and will eat Okur up. Jazz fans: Okur can handle Gasol fine — Kobe is the lingering problem. Truth: Okur is underrated defensively. He’s big, long, and doesn’t let Gasol get to the rim on isolation sets. Gasol has not been scoring well on the block for weeks and has been getting 90% of his offense off of great passes when the defense breaks down or in transition (which I have no problem with — I’d rather have the ball moving and Gasol getting 20 on 12 chip shots than have him attack hard on the block and get 30 on 22 isolation shots; there are enough weapons that we don’t need him to carry that heavy of a load).

*LA dominated in transition. Lakers fans: LA is faster, deeper and more explosive. Jazz fans: we were tired from the Houston series and you won’t get this advantage again. Truth: Utah was a bit sluggish, but LA is more athletic at every position but point guard and should have a significant fast break point edge every game.

I think Utah is capable of winning any game in this series, and the series itself. Deron is going to play better and go off a few times (he’ll realize that there isn’t a lot waiting for him at the rim when he gets by Fisher and start to lower his head and bull through more often). Boozer can put Gasol in foul trouble and thereby disrupt LA’s freak offensive efficiency. And Utah’s rebounding edge is going to be worth a lot of extra points in a series where the margins are narrow. But, LA should ultimately come through. Kobe is just an awful matchup for the Jazz given their lack of wing defenders or help shotblockers. LA’s defense is also enough better than Utah’s that they should have an easier time scoring points over the long haul.

For another great breakdown, the always amazing KD at Ball Don’t Lie looks behind the boxscore.

Game two on Wednesday will be interesting because both teams came out of game one thinking there were key areas to improve on — Utah’s shooting, particularly from D-Will and Boozer, and for the Lakers on the boards. Of course, one impacts the other — if Utah made more shots they would have gotten fewer offensive boards. But the team that makes the better adjustments here will be have the upper hand.

The Lakers have an odd concern here — because every Jazz player crashes the boards there are opportunities for run-outs and fast breaks. However, the Lakers have to be smart about it, because it can lead to overwhelming numbers of Jazz in the paint. Good times might include running close-outs on three-point shooters, Gasol got his late-game hesitation breakaway layup when he just kept running on a close-out, then Kobe got him the ball. (Do you think Kwame could have done that? Ha.)

Also, Reed mentioned Kobe’s penetration above, and I agree it’s something we can expect to see continue. But part of what drove Utah’s comeback was their penetration — the Jazz offense really opens when D-Will gets in the paint. The Lakers need to limit it again (as much as one can do that against D-Will).

Finally, I don’t think enough credit can be given to the Lakers bench — The Lakers second-quarter run that gave them a healthy lead came with a lineup of Vujacic, Turiaf, Walton, Farmar and Gasol. Speicial kudos to Sasha and Turiaf. Turiaf provided defensive energy in the paint the Lakers needed at key times. Sasha has now become the designated Korver stopper, which is a good role for him (but all those 13-year-old girls in Utah will hate him). Sasha finished +8 for the game, matched with Korver, a good sign.

There’s a lot more, like this smart series preview at The Painted Area, but we can’t get to it all. Plus, we need to save a few things for the game two preview.

Lakers/Jazz Thoughts

Kurt —  May 4, 2008

Some assorted thoughts from Game One, we’ll break down the details in the coming days:

• I enjoyed that game because I enjoy watching two teams that know how to pass. That was smart hoops.

• I also said this series was about defense — Utah shot 40% (eFG%) the Lakers shot 48.6%. Count one for LA. Despite the offensive rebounds by Utah, LA’s defense was the difference.

• I think the Lakers length impacted that shooting percentage for Utah. And that is not going to change.

• Let’s not complain about the refs. I think Darius has said this well in the comments several times — Utah does what it does physically every time down the court, and over the course of a game or a series they move the bar for what gets called. Eventually, the refs call fewer and fewer fouls. Rather than complain about it, the Lakers have to play through it, to play through the contact. Kobe does that better than anyone.

• The fact that Gasol had four free throws in the game I think is a sign he did not like the physicality. He needs to accept it and score through the contact in game two.

• To Utah fans complaining about Phil complaining about the refs: Welcome to playoff basketball. You can influence the refs through the media, every coach knows this and does this.

• The adjustments for game two will be very interesting. What do the Lakers do to improve their defensive rebounding? What adjustments do the Jazz do to improve D-Will’s 5 of 18 night?

• The offensive rebounds matter: Utah grabbed 43.1% of their missed shots, and that is far too many. To counter, the Lakers did a better job of getting to the line.

• I thought Hubie Brown made a great point about Utah (and I paraphrase), “Every time they do something on offense that is a great point, they give up an easy basket on the other end.”

• What did I say about Utah’s transition defense? It’s not that good and the Lakers did a good job of exploiting it, and that needs to continue.

• Those Zohan split-screen commercials are brilliant.

• More Kobe/Gasol pick-and-roll.

• Okur is married to the former Miss Turkey? There is a stuffing joke in that but I’m not going near it.

• Everything worked out great, but a couple years ago the Lakers considered trading for Boozer and I was for it. I’m not ashamed of having been in that camp.

Lakers/Jazz Game One Chat

Kurt —  May 4, 2008

A few things to think about on game day:

• Here is my big picture thought of the series — 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.

• 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 cuts…they will hold and grab off the ball if they are beat to a spot.

• Some other thoughts from Darius saying things I was going to but doing it better, so here you are:

*It’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 I’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 Vlad’s awareness is going to be key…and Phil has not called him a space cadet for nothing…so that is something to look out for.

*Please, Please, Please keep a level head against this team…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 can’t get frustrated by Utah’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 Utah’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. I’m not really worried about Kobe, he knows the drill and is our General in this battle, but it’s just something that we need to be under control.

• While we’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.

• Okay, I give in, it’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 don’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 you’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 don’t care about foul trouble-they’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 can’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.

Kentucky Derby Picks

Kurt —  May 3, 2008

Sure, there is some basketball game tomorrow we’ll be watching. But today is Derby Day, virtually a national holiday at my house. We’ll be watching the run for the roses, and for me that means a big Derby party at our house, some mint juleps and my traditional Derby picks post.

The big question handicapping this year is Big Brown — is he a freak who is by far the best of a slow group? Or is he a gifted but inexperienced horse in a terrible post position who will fall flat (ala Curlin)?

This is a really tough year to handicap because every horse has plenty of flaws to pick apart and then there is the whole synthetic to dirt track issue. This is a year a longshot may pull through and the exacta may pay big. All that said, here are my picks.

1. Colonel John.
Churchill Downs has long favored horses coming from off the pace, and with plenty of speed out front coming off the pace is the place to be in this race. This horse has a very long stride, well suited for this track, and he had a bullet work over the dirt. My only concern is he gets lost in traffic.

2. Denis of Cork. Steve Haskins of BloodHorse talked me into this with his glowing reports on this horse this week. Another horse charging from off the pace with a world of talent.

3. Big Brown. I think the post position hurts him and his inexperience means he can’t overcome it. That said, I can’t leave him off because…. What if he really is that good? He had the outside post and got pushed three wide through the first turn at the Florida Derby and he won by 12 lengths.

In the exotics I’m throwing in Z Fortune and Pyro. I wouldn’t shocked if Pyro wins the thing. Despite the picks, I’ll be rooting for Visionaire as I know some people in the ownership syndicate.

Enjoy the race, tomorrow we talk hoops again (and in the previous post’s comments).

Thoughts on The Jazz

Kurt —  May 2, 2008

Just a couple of notes after the Jazz earned the right to come out to LA Sunday.

• While many think of the Jazz as a grind-it-out team, Jerry Sloan opened up the offense some this year, and the Jazz can run — so the Lakers need to get back in transition. Utah ran against the Rockets in spurts, and what is dangerous is their shooters trail the play and spot up at the arc (including Okur). It’s not the same as Denver, but the Jazz are too good for the Lakers to give up any easy buckets like that. (Thanks to Exodus for a correction in that paragraph).

• You can run on the Jazz, they can get sloppy in transition defense. The Lakers should push the pace on offense.

• The lesson the Rockets taught us — Kobe will get his (in the McGrady role) but if the other Lakers don’t step up and add points it will be a very tough series. The crisp Lakers passing can get good looks, Utah didn’t see that from the Rockets.

• Pick and roll defense, particularly stopping the penetration off it, will be key for LA. The Jazz offense clicks when D-Will draws attention on those drives and he can dish.

• It’s been said a lot, but how the refs call things and if some Lakers get in foul trouble will be a key to the series.

• The benches could decide this.