Preview and Chat: The Utah Jazz

Darius Soriano —  February 10, 2010

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Records: Lakers 40-13 (1st in the West), Jazz 32-18 (3rd in the West, 6.5 behind the Lakers)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 109.6 (9th in the NBA), Jazz 110.0 (7th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.5 (2nd in the NBA), Jazz 104.6 (9th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur

Will they play?: The big question surrounding the Lakers right now is the injury status of Kobe and Bynum and whether either or both will be ready to suit up for tonight’s contest.  It’s already looking unlikely that Bynum will participate as he’s listed as doubtful.  As for Kobe, he’s put down his Carnac hat and can no longer see into the future – so he’s unable to determine how he’ll feel when tip off arrives.  My guess is that he sits, but I was the same guy that thought he’d play against the Spurs so take that for what it’s worth.  In the end, my take is that they should both stay home and get treatment on what ails them.  At this point, they’ve both missed games so they’re obviously not feeling anywhere close to 100% and if that is still the case I see no need to rush back for a game that will be immediately followed by the all-star break.  Let those bodies heal and come back feeling healthy and fresh for the stretch run.  Plus, as our last two games have proven, who needs ’em?  (I kid, I kid.)

The Jazz Coming in:  Winners of 9 in a row and 14 of their last 16 games, there isn’t a hotter team in the NBA than the Utah Jazz (besides maybe, Cleveland).  Lately, the Jazz have been showing the form of the team that was in the Western Conference Finals two seasons ago and not the one that finished 8th in the West last season after stumbling down the stretch.  This Jazz team is for real and seem to be showing their potential as a squad going into the home stretch and the push for the playoffs.

Much of the Jazz’s resurgence this season can be attributed to the improved play of Carlos Boozer.  A legitimate all-star snub, Boozer is looking smarter every day for opting-in to the last year of his contract in order to become an UFA after this season.  Next year, some team that doesn’t land one of the marquee guys (Lebron, Wade, Bosh) is going to look to Boozer as a real alternative and he’s going to cash in on this season’s success.  He’s averaging almost 20 points and 11 rebounds with percentages of 55 from the field and 77 from the line and found the groove that eluded him last season while he battled injuries and inconsistency.  Another player that has found his stride in recent weeks is Andrei Kirilenko.  He’s slid back into the starting line up at SF and is really helping the Jazz in every area of the stat sheet.  The man with the best nickname in all of basketball has scored in double digits in his last 9 games while also giving the Jazz a handful or boards to go with his typical output of steals and blocks.

But the real key to the Jazz success, night in and night out, is one of the best point guards in the world.  Deron Williams is a monster that can shoot from anywhere, pass, drive, finish in traffic, and has the body to defend any type of guard that you throw up against him.  He’s finally been rewarded with his first all-star appearance and it’s really overdue.  He’s often overshadowed by Paul and even Nash, but Deron is for real and he is the engine of the Jazz car.  Tonight will be a real test for the Lakers as they are facing the best team they’ve had to play since the match up with Cleveland.

Jazz Blogs: Salt City Hoops always has the lowdown on their home team.  Also check out SLC Dunk for good breakdowns and information on the Jazz.

Keys to game:  The Jazz run one of the best executed offenses in the NBA.  Completely stopping it can be difficult when they are passing and moving as a unit and making the right reads in their sets.  If you want a fantastic breakdown with examples of what the Jazz can do to a team when they’re operating on all cylanders on offense, check out the wrap up that Kevin from Clipperblog has from last night’s Jazz/Clips game (seriously, go read it).  Now that you’re back, you understand that the Lakers will need to be disciplined on defense.  They’ll need their ‘A’ game on P&R defense and can’t get overaggressive in the passing lanes becuase they’ll get beat by the back door.  When it comes to individual defense, Boozer loves to operate on the mid post/elbow area where he can either turn and face or shoot is jumper.  When he drives, he loves to go left so Pau/Odom/Powell will need to be aware of this and shade him to his right hand.  Deron Williams loves to go opposite of the P&R so our guards will need to be aware that the screen may just be a decoy and ensure that Deron doens’t go away from where the help is positioned.  If he gets a head of steam to the basket, he will do damage in the paint and he’ll also make the correct pass to open teammates in the (Joel Meyers sponsored) short corner.

On offense, the Lakers need to push the ball like they have been in the last two games.  The Jazz are coming off a back to back and had to make the same flight from LA to Salt Lake that the Lakers did, so make them run and see if they wear down by the 4th quarter.  Plus, the Lakers have a speed advantage in the front court and should utilize it.  Boozer and Okur can’t run with Odom and Pau so we should see plenty of Odom turning defensive rebounds into fast break chances and Pau running post lane sprints to try and get easy buckets against the slow footed Jazz big men.  This is a tactic that has worked in the playoffs the past two seasons and I expect to see more of it tonight.

When the running opportunity is not there, the Lakers need to play fundamental Triangle basketball and initiate the offense through the post and then cut, screen, and continue to move the ball.  Get the defense moving and get good  shots or make the them foul.  Because the Jazz will foul.   Utah is still one of the highest fouling teams in the league and will not hesitate to reach and grab if they are beat.  That means, be prepared to take the hit and finish shots.  We can’t be rattled by contact or get frustrated by the fouling (especially on no-calls) and must play through the whistle (or lack thereof).  Also be prepared for a hostile crowd.  The Jazz fans hate the Lakers and will boo incessantly when we have the ball and cheer wildly just for Kyle Korver removing his warmups.  This is a tough environment to play in and the Lakers will need to be ready.

Where you can watch: 6:00 pm start time out West on KCAL 9. Also on ESPN Radio 710 AM.


Darius Soriano

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230 responses to Preview and Chat: The Utah Jazz

  1. kaveh, noticed you didn’t make many comments after your #11… can you say, oops? my bad?

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  2. Wow…200 comments and no kaveh retraction post?

    Someone needs to man up…the Lakers didn’t play their MAXIMUM and still won easily…

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  3. haha @ chris H and pb.

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  4. In defense of Kaveh, he is in Germany, which might just mean he’s working or something about 50 time zones away from here. I’m not looking for a retraction of his statement just as long as he’s happily suprised that a team he likes played great with two stars (one being the mamba) out the whole game. I’ve came across people that would rather be pesimistically right than obtimistcally wrong and that’s not cool. Give the man a break for a plausible observation. I remember their were quite a few predictions of a LAL loss tonight a few days ago.
    BTW Mimsy- didn’t you say you were going to this game and if so how was the experience?

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  5. Ray,
    Thanks for the potshot 😉 haha. But there are two teams that play in a game. I remember the numbers being earth shattering on losses for teams traveling from west to east on the end of a back to back in both Utah and Denver. And Utah played a tough game in LA against the Clippers last night. But again… still a great win.

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  6. Aaron,

    It’s pretty hard for teams to play 2nd night of back to back regardless, though the Jazz did win on the second night of back to backs after we killed them at staples earlier in the year.

    I figured that the Jazz streak cancels out the 2nd night of b2b.

    hey aaron, what did you think of my suggestion of bynum coming off the bench? I can see him and Farmar pulling a lot of pick and rolls and those two being focal points of the 2nd unit. Leaving Bynum’s mental state out of it.

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  7. So proud of the way this team has played the last three games.

    That is all.

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  8. I just hope PJ realizes that he’s got a decent team without Kobe and be a bit more firm when Kobe tries to play through injuries.

    Then again, I don’t think that will happen, with the way PJ handled things in the past. Kobe is THE man on our team, and PJ himself likes players to find things out on their own.

    Although I’m sure that team success won’t get into Kobe’s mind much, but not sure what Bynum is taking in from all of this. I sure as hell hope it isn’t “Now that they had all the fun, when I get back, I deserve touches.”

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  9. A wonderful win, with wonderful teamwork, defense and effort. Does it mean we are invincible? Of course not.

    I hope our success gives the non-Kobes the status and guts to start saying No to Kobe, and for them to run the offense and defense the way it’s supposed to be run. Make Kobe can play in the flow of the offense and only serve as the X Factor when necessary.

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  10. Oh, grow up. Kaveh gave his reasoning behind his prediction, is all this taunting afterward necessary?

    As I said in the comments section a few posts ago, this would be a real test for the Lakers. The Jazz were on fire and they’ve been consistently good on their home court. It was a nice win.

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  11. This may be a cliche’, but what we have to take home from this game is that when the Lakers play as a team, they are very difficult to beat–even if not at full strength. Regardless of who was in the game, the Lakers kept their lead from beginning to end–even though some had already conceded the game to the Jazz in their minds.

    On the offensive side, it was hard to beat the effeciency of Odom and Farmar. Mbenga finished two fast breaks with incredible dunks off nifty passes. Powell hit an in rythmn 3 off a feed from Gasol. Even though WOW almost became a volume shooter in the worst sense, he made a statement dunk early on that set the tone for the entire game.

    On the defensive side, Fisher took former teammate Deron Williams out of his accustomed dominant role–and took a charge from AK47 as the Jazz tried to make a comeback. Artest and Sasha got under the skin of several Utah players with determined defense. “Supersoft” Pau Gasol controlled the boards and made some incredible blocks–oh, and his shooting and passing weren’t too shabby either.

    I had my most fun as a fan this year watching this game. I like this Laker Team (with a capital “T”)–and that includes them all. Those who spoke negatively of individual Laker PGs, or hoped that the Lakers would lose to prove a point about the value of Kobe or Andrew–wash your mouth out with soap–leave the dark side.

    The Laker bandwagon of hope still has a few empty seats–and who knows where it might take us?

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  12. Lakers went 16-9 from dec 25 cavs loss thru
    last nights jazz win. A tough stretch but hopefully they can make a run at best record.
    Go magic tonite!

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  13. the other stephen February 10, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    missed the game. on a scale of one to ten, how unbearable was matt harpring tonight?

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  14. first i’m drunk. second, i love this lakers team. kobe should come off the bench! he can be our jamal crawford.

    psyyyyych.

    Note: commenting guidelines say no drinking and commenting.

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  15. Andreas G. wrote on February 10, 2010 at 6:36 pm
    Apart from a few minutes in the middle when they resorted to jumpers, that quarter was a thing of beauty.

    And I thought we couldn’t hang with the Jazz talent wise?;)
    ===========

    I was one of the guys who said that we couldn’t hang with Utah talent wise. I wasn’t able to watch the live game, but i’m watching a replay now (without knowing the result). Currently it is 44 to 30 with 7 minutes to go in the 2nd, and so far i can say that i was very wrong. The Lakers are playing incredible. But that said, it is an incredible play that i doubt can last through 7 games against a tough opponent. It is not fundamental basketball but rather inspired basketball. The adrenaline is running wild and the team is using it to its fullest. Could this team really beat the Nuggets or the Jazz in a 7 game series in the playoffs? No way.

    What i’m wondering is why doesn’t Lamar play this point, offensive initiator role when Kobe/Bynum are in the game? This is how Lamar is at his absolute BEST. He needs to continue this type of play. He is playing at an all-star level right now. This is what i thought Lamar would turn into when he came into the league 9 years ago.

    One thing i was right about was Sasha. He is playing GREAT ball. PJ, give Sasha a LOT more time. He is playing out of this world.

    Farmar is also playing great. But he needs to remember that he is best as an attacker not a jump shooter.

    Shannon, i was one of the guys who really loved your game. But if you continue taking contested long 2 point shots, you need to SIT. You are not a star, play like a role player.

    DJ Mbenga –please someone deactivate this guy. He is horrible. IF he could just play with half a brain and not thing he is Kobe Bryant, this guy would get playing time. But he shoots the ball every time he touches it. He needs to be let go.

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  16. Kaveh,

    I applaud you for admitting your mistake on this game. We are all pleasantly happy that you were wrong for this game.

    I think the Lakers played pretty fundamentally this game, and the past few games.

    Regarding LO, u know, he’s been doing a lot with the ball in his hands. I think it’s more about deferring to Kobe. I mean, wouldn’t you?

    Good season so far. With all the things the Lakers can improve on as a team, the Lakers are best in the west, 2nd in the league overall and we had Pau out 17 or so games, Kobe out 3 (and injured for all), and Bynum now out.

    I like our chances!!

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  17. lamar to PG all the time,let kobe retire to front office,3 rings in a row.

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  18. On a side note, is all the chatter about Lakers looking into a move for Hinrich based on actual leaks/valid rumours, or is it pure speculation (the Fast Break thoughts post linked to one article discussing this)?

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  19. Percentage Victories WITHOUT Kobe: 100%

    Percentage Victories WITH Kobe: 77%

    I say we trade Kobe and get some salary cap….

    LLLLOOOOOLLLLL

    Go Lakers!

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  20. chris h,

    lol. I never said that i can predict every game. I just gave my opinion, which was if we were going to win, the lakers had to play to their fullest and the Jazz had to have an off-day.

    Here is the quote in question, in full: “We just don’t have the talent level to beat a Jazz team without Kobe/Bynum. Pure and simple. If we are going to win tonight, we need to play at our maximum, and the Jazz need to have an off game.”

    I do think the lakers played their best possible basketball and the Jazz did have an off day, especially since this was a 2nd of a back to back.

    That said, if anyone is crazy enough to believe that a Lakers team without Kobe/Bynum, or even a Lakers team without Bynum, can possibly beat the Nuggets, Cavs, Celtics or Magic in a 7 game series in the playoffs…well, that person needs their head examined. Especially a Lakers team without Kobe. That team would not get out of the 2nd round.

    That said, I hope all these players, with the exception of Shannon/Fisher/Mbenga play like this when Kobe/Bynum come back. Shannon/Fisher have not been playing very well. Too many shots for Brown and Fisher, well he’s just too old to play well. In any event, when Kobe/Bynum come back, then we see this team at full strength. And if they can play up to their potential at full strength, that is a team which can sweep the Cavs/Nuggets/Celtics/Magic.

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  21. Kobe finally got smart and looked around the league at all the star players with minor injuries resting themselves for the playoffs. The NBA season is a grind, and the playoffs are more than twice as long as they were in the day.

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  22. kaveh, my feelings are that we have not yet seen the real potential of this TEAM, and while I love having Kobe on our team, when he’s on the floor, we see way too much deferring to him. LO is a great example, he’s not an alpha dog when Kobe’s on the floor, he defers, end of story.
    now, we get to see how good the rest of the players are, or can be, and, we get to see the team running the offense a little bit better, less iso’s for sure.
    this is good for 2 reasons, well actually 3 –
    1) kobe can get some rest and get healthy
    2) the team gains confidence in themselves and plays better
    3) kobe can see that the team can and should be trusted, that he doesn’t have to shoulder the load every night, to allow the team to contribute and that results in

    a much better team. period.
    so this break without Kobe has had many advantages, I’ve been advocating for this now for some time, glad it finally came to fruition.

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  23. 220, I didn’t have a problem with the quote you listed; you obviously left yourself an out in case we did win.

    I have a problem with “The entire ‘we play better without kobe/bynum’ joke is about to come to an end. ” Fact is, we are playing better without kobe/bynum. Whether we are a better team without them, I think the answer is a pretty obvious no. As of right now, however, we’re definitively playing better without Kobe/Bynum.

    How is it that we’re winning on adrenaline? The game I saw was a well-executed game plan, on offense and on defense. On offense, we ran the triangle through Pau as the initiator, and we were able to get penetration off cuts and screens, leading to easy buckets. These easy buckets then preventing the Jazz from getting easy transition scores, which fed our set defense, which played at an extremely high level. I don’t know if this can be attributed to Kobe/Bynum or not, but I know that guys are not blowing their assignments on D, the ball isn’t sticking on O, and we’re getting much, much easier shots.

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  24. Kaveh,
    “We just don’t have the talent level to beat a Jazz team without Kobe/Bynum. ”

    A team with Gasol, Artest, and Odom isn’t talented enough to beat the Jazz?

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  25. we have a deep team, but lately we’ve all been saying our bench is too weak, etc.
    but, we do have a deep team, it’s just that the way the team has been playing, lot’s of iso’, not running the offense, gambling on D, (things we do more when Kobe is on the floor) are why we’re having these “weak bench” thoughts.
    we do have a deep team, and when we have injuries, that is when we get to see that these other players can perform, can deliver.
    I’m hoping we get a “ray of sunshine” out of these injuries in that I want Kobe to have a moment of realizing that this team is good, and he can fit in and be a part of it, or he can go back to trying to dominate and carry a team, (that frankly doesn’t need to be carried).
    this becomes a pretty complex issue and I’m very happy that we have a guy like PJ at the helm, he’s familiar with strong players egos and will be able to pull this team together and be their best down this stretch run.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if he planned this, took KB aside, asked him to rest the ankle and let’s all see what this “team” is capable of.
    I wouldn’t be surprised.

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  26. “That said, if anyone is crazy enough to believe that a Lakers team without Kobe/Bynum, or even a Lakers team without Bynum, can possibly beat the Nuggets, Cavs, Celtics or Magic in a 7 game series in the playoffs…well, that person needs their head examined.”

    I’m not saying that they would beat all those teams with certainty, but I definitely think that it would be possible. Let’s put it this way: Stranger things have happened.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the psychiatrist.

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  27. These last 3 wins are probably the most impressive stretch since last season’s road trip when they beat Cle and Bos. What terrific mo to go into the break with!

    I kept saying bench Kobe while he was going through his various ailments and the team was struggling. I wanted Kobe to heal and the team to show what they could do. It took a more serious injury, but finally it happened. Blessing in disguise? Let’s hope so.

    In the long term, Phil or whoever succeeds him needs to manage Kobe’s minutes. Now, Kobe isn’t going to sit out b2b game like Duncan does, but you really need to cut his minutes down. I don’t think these little injuries are just bad luck, but too many miles on those wheels. Kobe is nearing that minutes played threshold when players hit the wall. With his superb skill and fanatical training, he can soften the blow and extend his timeframe for being effective. But he’s human, and I want to see him and these Lakers win a few more rings.

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  28. The finals against the Celtics left a bad taste in our mouth but I think people should remember that NOBODY, NOBODY short of the Celtics had an answer for the Odom/Gasol combination in 07/08. We romped through the super tough Western Conference that year, and Sasha was our fourth best player!!!

    So even without Kobe and Bynum, I would still pick this team to make the playoffs, based on how well Gasol and Odom play together. We shouldn’t be shocked that they are winning right now.

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