Preview & Chat: The Utah Jazz

Kurt —  December 9, 2009

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Records: Lakers 16-3 (1st in West) Jazz 12-8 (5th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 108.7 (12th in league) Jazz 110.3 (6th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 100 (3rd in league) Jazz 106.7 (17th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Jazz: Deron Williams, Wesley Mathews, Ronnie Brewer, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur

The Lakers Coming in: In case you missed the news: Kobe Bryant missed the Lakers shootaround this morning, unable to leave his house thanks to some armed gunmen in the development. But don’t worry, not even armed gunmen can keep him from a game.

The Lakers are finally getting some good tests, which is a good thing. The Lakers rose to the occasion against the Heat and Suns (well, barely against the Heat but we’ll take it), but these two games in the next four days against the Jazz, along with the upcoming road trip, are good things. Simply put, you can’t sharpen a knife against a soft sponge, you need a hard stone. The Lakers look good but not June good, they need to get sharper as the year goes on. They need this kind of competition.

On another note, there will be some changes in the Lakers broadcast booth for upcoming games. On the radio, Mychal Thompson will miss games because of the death of his mother, so Luke Walton will fill in. On the television side, Stu Lantz will be out from December 11-20to help his wife through a surgery, so “Hot” Rod Hundley (who played for the Lakers and was a color guy next to Chick Hearn many, many years ago) will fill in. Our best go out to Mychal and Stu, as well as their families.

By the way, did you know Hundley has his number retired as a Laker? He wore 33 in Los Angeles. Sure the jersey hanging in the rafters says Abdul-Jabbar over the name, but it’s Hundley’s number.

The Jazz Coming in: It’s snowing in Salt Lake City, so the Jazz may be happy to get away from that. But as they have lost a dozen straight games to the Lakers at Staples, they may not be that happy to be here. They are also very banged up — no Andrei Kirilenko (at least not expected to play), no Kyle Korver, no Ronnie Price, no Matt Harpring.

They still do have Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, and those two are the heart of the Jazz now. Boozer gets overlooked in the discussion of the best power forwards in the league but he was on the Olympic team with good reason and he is having another good season — 21.2 points per game with a true shooting percentage of 61.6% and he is grabbing 18.7% of he available rebounds when he is on the floor. He can step out and hit the midrange (from 10 feet out he is taking about 7 shots a game and shooting 46.5%).

Then there is Deron Williams, one of the best point guards in the league. He can shoot — 34% from three and 52% from 16-feet out to the arc. He also can get to the rim. And he sees the floor well and passes beautifully — 9 assists per game, and 4 of those are guys at the rim, he is getting them easy baskets.

One other guy to watch off the bench a little is Eric Maynor, Williams backup. There is a lot of potential there. Maynor has struggled with his shot so far but I’ve seen him play and you have to like the way he runs the floor.

Blogs and links: Check out Salt City Hoops.

Keys to game: No team in the NBA executes its offense better than the Jazz. Everybody on the planet knows what they are going to do — it’s the same offense that Stockton and Malone ran. Yet the Jazz are sixth in the league in offensive efficiency because they execute it well.

The basic action of the offense is a pick near the elbow, something they run to either side of the floor. D-Will usually is the ball handler, and Boozer or sometimes Okur set the pick. D-Will makes it hard because he is smart and will go away from the pick if the defense commits too early, he will go through the pick then reset it and come back the other way, he can pull up for a midrange jumper or dive to the hoop. Boozer (and Okur) can both roll to the basket or pop out (Okur loves the pop). The other guys space the floor on the weak side well for catch-and-shoot chances, plus there are a lot of motions and cuts away from the ball, far more than most teams. It leads to a lot of back-door chances if teams fall asleep.

The Lakers defenders need to be disciplined — bigs need to show out and recover, guards have to fight through the picks fast, the weak-side defender needs to be ready for the roll to the hoop. Also, they sometimes throw the ball to Boozer at the elbow and he LOVES to go left. He can go right, but a quick move left is preferred and hard to stop because of his speed.

The Jazz have not been a good defensive team, and with AK-47 out they really lack a good shot blocker to protect the rim. The Lakers need to go at the rim, but they need to expect to get hit — the Jazz are physical inside. They foul a lot (25th most in the league per field goal attempt) but the refs become desensitized and a lot of calls are not made. A few Lakers players have a penchant for whining to the refs, not getting back on defense and losing focus. Drew, I’m looking at you. Keep your head in the game. Expect some bad calls and move on.

One other matchup advantage is that Wesley Mathews is going to have to cover Kobe or Artest — the Lakers should go at that.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start at Staples Center, you can choose between Fox Sports or 710 ESPN radio.


219 responses to Preview & Chat: The Utah Jazz

  1. Harper only played 47 games during the season and barely got any run at all in the playoffs. I remember Bobby Jackson said something that year in the playoffs about they weren’t gonna listening to what Ron Harper said, because Ron Harper wasn’t playing.

    @Bernie, what did I say that made you think I wasn’t a Lakers fan back then?

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  2. How about West, Goodrich, and McMillian for scorers, Hariston for boards; all backstopped by Chamberlain for everything else. Even with Jerry and Wilt at the end of their careers, that would still test champions today. Of course, that wasn’t the year Wilt averaged 48.5min/game, but still…

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  3. I gotta say what’s up to my boy Harris (#45). Those pick up games were good times…we ran those guys.

    As for the Jazz game:

    *This game showed why the Jazz are a very good team – great execution, strong rebounding, a truly great player on the perimeter, and capable players on their bench (Miles has always been a sneaky good shooter [plus he gets extra credit for being a lefty] and Millsap, while not having his typical season, can still impact the game). But this game also showed that the Lakers can play at another level that most other teams can’t reach.

    *The usual suspects will always get credit in a game like this – Kobe & Pau, Artest had another good game, Drew (while not rebounding to his potential) did protect the paint, Odom was excellent on the defensive glass and then changing ends quickly to create advantages on offense, etc. But, I really give credit to…

    *Jordan Farmar! It’s been said already, but he’s been playing very, very well lately. Yes, he still goes outside the system a bit too much. But, if he’s doing all these other things right, I don’t care. He’s moving the ball well. He’s attacking the paint and not settling for too many jumpers. He’s creating for himself and his teammates all while playing to his strenghts. And, most importantly, he’s playing better defense. Deron Williams has always been a real problem for Jordan. And based off that history, you saw Phil go to WOW as the PG to match up with Deron in the middle part of the game. But, in the 4th quarter when we went on that run, Phil went to Jordan and he delivered. Soon enough, it was Farmar pestering Williams – using his speed and athleticsm to cut off driving angles and challenge shots. Jordan played inspired ball last night and he deserves a load of credit for his contributions to this win.

    *Also, I mentioned Phil and he deserves lots of credit too. He brought in Sasha to match up with Miles in the 4th quarter and he responded. Sasha was active in chasing CJ around the court and then showed real focus on offense. He wasn’t chucking up shots and playing frantically. He instead exhibited patience in running our sets and making the right pass. Phil also went to LO and Bynum for a long stretch to start the 4th even though those guys hadn’t shown much in the previous 3 quarters. But those guys also turned their (and the team’s) nights around by challenging shots at the rim, rebounding, trapping on the perimeter, and forcing missed shots & turnovers. The Jazz lost any rhythm they had when that Farmar/Sasha/Ron/LO/Bynum unit picked up the intensity and it snowballed from there. Then we brought Kobe back in and it was curtains.

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  4. harold, it’s not me. It’s fate.

    The retired numbers and the championship banners hanging from the rafters can sense green jerseys come into their arena, and they remember… they still compete… To wear green jerseys into Staples Center is to bring the full competitive fury of 50 years of Laker legends down on yourself.

    And as we saw in the fourth quarter last night, true greatness never ends and the powers of past championships can still dominate an unworthy opponent who dares to wear green.

    (I posted that, re-read it, and am now seriously considering cutting back on the espresso… 🙂 )

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  5. Darius

    good pont on Sasha’s play last night. It was good to see him play within the offense. Since bringing in Shannon, his role has changed, and it seems like he hasn’t adjusted to that. though he still committed some stupid fouls last night, at least he didn’t overdo it on the offensive end like he tends to do.

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  6. Woohoo, pop the bubbly! Dude was right, we are now number 1 on Hollinger’s Power Rankings.

    /sarcasm

    Actually, the thing I see that I like most on Hollinger’s rankings is our strength of schedule ranking; we are tied for 5th (with Detroit) at .536, while the east contenders (cough, pretenders) are as follows:
    Cleveland – 25th – .466
    Orlando – 26th – .466
    Boston – 27th – .460

    Rounding out the list is our old friends, the Thuggets (.411), those big bad junior high bullys who beat up elementary school kids for their milk money. Yes, yes we were one of those kids earlier this season, but as Pop said before, back to back @Den is a scheduled loss

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  7. Antwonomous,

    I think there’s some confusion with the comments. I never have or ever will question anyone’s fandom or their love for the Lakers. Aaron was directing those comments to me.

    My point was that for all the clamor about the Lakers PG situation, it was nothing like back then with the PFs. At least now, there’s some stability with Fisher but it was truely amazing in those championship years to win with 3 different and frankly, below average starting PFs. Wouldn’t anyone find it amazing to win a championship with Samaki Walker in the starting lineup?

    @Aaron, yes I was a Laker fan back then and still am a Laker fan today. I even owned and treasured a basketball signed by Tony Smith of all people. There’s no need to demean comments.

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  8. Wouldn’t anyone find it amazing to win a championship with Samaki Walker in the starting lineup?

    Wouldn’t that depend on who the other starters were?

    I wasn’t following NBA basketball at all until fall of 2004, but I’ve been led to believe that the other four starters on the 2001 Laker team were fairly good.

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  9. Not Charlie Rosen December 10, 2009 at 10:05 am

    I’ll put it this way:

    Samaki Walker < Kwame/Travis Knight/Medvedenko/slightly-off-balance-folding-chair

    It would be hard for a line-up of all-time greats to compensate for him, let alone a team with 2 greats and two beloved-if-somewhat-average (Fox and Fisher) players.

    Thank god for Big Shot Rob.

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  10. I don’t think Samaki Walker was that bad. He certainly wasn’t a turnover waiting to happen. He usually put up decent numbers and stayed out of Shaq’s way (a non-trivial skill). And it’s worth noting that he almost always played well against the Spurs (in part due to the fact that he had played with the Spurs before coming to the Lakers).

    All of those championship teams had Horry finishing at PF, so I don’t think it’s quite right to portray them as a team in flux at that position.

    It will never show up in the stats, but I always thought one of the things that stood out about guys like Fish, Fox, Horry (not to mention Shaw and Harper) was that they always played well under pressure. Not just hitting the big shots (though obviously that stood out), but that fact that these guys didn’t make many mistakes. I remember a lot of big runs fueled because the Lakers were getting quality looks every time while not giving up anything easy at the other end.

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  11. The funny thing about Samaki Walker is that he dominates on NBALive 2002.

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  12. Bernie,
    I am sorry… I wasn’t trying to be demeaning. I was seriously just thinking maybe you were too young to be a fan back then. Sorry for the confusion.

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  13. Oh sorry about that, Bernie, I meant Aaron. And Aaron I guess you weren’t talking to me and anyways, we’re all part of the same Lakers family. Peace.

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