Lakers/Jazz: Odom Overwhelms Utah

Darius Soriano —  April 3, 2010

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Ahh, the sweet taste of victory.  After two straight defeats and losing three of four games, it definitely feels nice to get a win.  It feels even better to beat the Jazz – one of the better teams in the conference and the team that held the number two seed coming into tonight’s contest.  But what makes it feel best is how the Lakers pretty much controlled this game from the opening tip to the final buzzer.  And though this may not have been the 48-minute performance that many fans have been searching for, but the Lakers still dominated the Jazz in this 106-92 victory.

And they did it on the strength of their first and fourth quarter performances.  At the start of the game it was obvious that the Lakers were dialed in.  Offensively and defensively there was a focus to every little detail and a commitment to execution that has been lacking in recent games.  When the Lakers had the ball there was a crispness to their sets that was both refreshing and intoxicating.  Watching the ball move with ease and purpose was like a revelation as it’s something that we just haven’t had the pleasure to see since the Rockets game nearly a week ago.  And on defense, the Lakers were swarming the ball and contesting shots all over the court.  The Lakers would force 5 turnovers in the first quarter alone and it keyed their ability to get easy buckets in transition and pile on the points.  By the time the quarter was over, the Lakers led 33-16 and were in complete control.

In the 2nd and 3rd quarters, though, Utah would make their push.  After the initial buzz of crowd died down and the Lakers’ back ups came into the game, the Jazz slowly started to chip away at the lead.  That 17 point first quarter Lakers lead was cut to 9 at the half.  At the end of the third the lead would be down to 8.  The Jazz just fought and played smart and took advantage of the one match up in their favor over and over again.  What was that match up?  Deron Williams over any Laker that tried to guard him.  Over the middle portion of the game, Deron just controlled the contest.  After the Jazz secured a defensive rebound, Deron would receive an outlet pass beat Farmar up the court in transition for an easy bucket.  The next time down he’d draw a foul on Artest who was trying to body him as he raced the ball into the frontcourt.  On another possession after that he’d cross over Kobe to get to the rim and create an easy shot for himself.  (On what seemed like the) Next time down he’d do the same thing to set up a teammate.  The man was simply amazing and, as I stated in the game preview, continued to make his claim as the best point guard in the NBA this season.  He ran roughshod over the Lakers entire defense to the point that early in the 4th quarter the Jazz would get as close as 4.  But that would be as close as they would get because the final nine and a half minutes of this game would belong to the Lakers.

In that fourth quarter, the Lakers just made play after play.  A made three pointer was followed by a defensive stop.  Then there was an offensive rebound and an “and one” put back.  And then another defensive stop was followed by another three pointer.  And on it went.  In what was seemingly the blink of an eye, a four point game was fourteen and this game was the route that was foreshadowed in the first quarter.  And the man driving the bus was Lamar Odom.  Every once and a while, Lamar has a game that reminds everyone how special a player he is.  It’s like he wants to show everyone one more time why he was drafted as high as he was and why he got that big contract with Miami and why so many fans wanted him resigned in the off season.  Our lanky lefty was simply the difference in this game.  On a night where the Lakers won by 14, Lamar was +30 on the evening.  His stat line of 26 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block only begins to tell the story of his impact on the game.  He just seemed to make every play that mattered.  The aforementioned sequence was actually all him and was actually a run of 9 straight Lakers points from LO where his baskets and defensive rebounds extended the game from a 4 point lead at 75-71 to 84-72 and was only broken up by single Mehment Okur free throw.

But Lamar didn’t win this game on his own.  Pau Gasol was also excellent.  Though he only shot 4-8 from the field and 6-10 from the foul line for 14 total points, Pau impacted the game in almost every other way imaginable by grabbing 16 rebounds, dishing out 9 assists, and tallying a steal and a block all without committing a single foul.  I mean, the man was one assist away from a triple double and played 42 minutes at Center (mostly guarding Carlos Boozer) without committing a foul.  Amazing.  But it wasn’t just the numbers that he produced; it was the quiet control he had over the game.  The way he was the foundation of our offense from the post.  The way that shots were contested when they needed to be.  The screens he set to help get his teammates open.  Overall, despite the low scoring output, just a masterful game from Gasol.

And then there was Kobe “today I’m a lot richer” Bryant.  Yes, his shot was off – needing 23 shots to get his 25 points.  But in a game where a bunch of those shots that typically do go in didn’t, Kobe adjusted and attacked the rim to draw fouls and earn trips to the FT line.  And though he had a rough patch where he missed three consecutive freebies, he still connected on his other 15 attempts finishing 15-18 from the stripe.  The mark of a great player is finding a way to make an impact even when the best parts of your game aren’t working, and as a scorer Kobe did that tonight (while also grabbing 6 boards with 3 assists too).  Derek Fisher also deserves a shout out for his solid play this evening.  Five for seven from the field (including 2-3 from three) for Fish for a total of 14 points.  And, as a veteran should, Fish adjusted his game later on in the contest after he forced up a jumper and got an earful from Phil when the coach called a timeout after a particularly shaky possession.  Fisher heeded Phil’s call for stability and from that point forward ran our sets, making the proper reads with the ball and organizing our offense expertly (which is more than I can say for our other guards).

In the end this wasn’t their best game but it was pretty damned good.  There were rough patches for sure – our bench was again substandard, we again allowed a big double digit lead to get too close, and Artest still wasn’t sharp with his outside shot – but I’ll take a 14 point win over a contender any day of the week.  Especially when all of us fans have had a lot of complaints about this team’s ability to play well and beat good teams.  Hopefully the Lakers can build on this as they head into Sunday in another matchup with the Spurs (and a still red hot Ginobili).  But that’s Sunday.  Tonight I go to bed happy with thoughts of win #55 on my mind.

Darius Soriano

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17 responses to Lakers/Jazz: Odom Overwhelms Utah

  1. Too add to the theme of offensive and defensive dominance for the Lakers in the 1st and 4th quarters, the Lakers points per possession in those periods were 1.50 (1st Q) and 1.19 (4th Q) while the Jazz were at 0.70 (1st Q) and 0.99 (4th Q). (stats provided by ESPN stats and information)

  2. Fish made his open shots
    The Jazz don’t have a legitimate Center to bother Gasol
    Boozer can’t play against the Lakers length

    game over

    P.S. Where did Ron’s 3 point shot go? Better come back for the playoffs

  3. one game is good. two would be better. I’ll see you guys on sunday.

    Lakers have been good with one or two games, but the playoffs are about sustaining it. I’m usually an optimist on this site, but I need to see it more. Another tough game Sunday, against a likely first round opponent. If we can get the offense moving again, and get kobe to him at his average percentage with everyone else chipping in, then I’ll start being happy again.

    Nice game LO. Nice game Pau. Next.

  4. Ron’s 3 point shot is taking a long spring break. it will be back soon.

  5. when Fisher (or anyone) hits their 3s, there’s nothing you can do against us.

  6. There has been a lot of dissatisfaction wiht this team around here lately… understandably.

    But I just watched the 2002 WCF game 7 against the Kings again yesterday, and that was a championship team, Shaq had huge stats and Kobe was young (and the Fish was breathing – he even jumped at one point)…

    …but I must say, I like this team a lot more. That was some ugly, slow, predictabel, repetitive ball they played. This 2010 team can play the most beautfull ball when they want. The game of Gasol and Odom and old and clever Kobe is fantastic to watch when its clicking. To me, much more so than the give-it-to-Shaq-pass-out-shoot-teams.

    They might not be as good as the 2002 Lakers, but I love the make up of this team, and I am really looking forward to see how high they can fly.

  7. Anders,
    The key words in your comment was “…when they want…”. I agree with Jeff VanGundy; the Lakers are extremely hard to beat when Lamar Odom comes to play. Since he is also the definition of inconsistent, that is also why we all are quickly going bald.

  8. I just watched the game and was very glad to see that our spacing had improved very much considering our last 5 games. The first Laker point came off a loaded right side with Artest down low, then Odom giving it to Kobe on the perimeter, Gasol setting a screen for Odom, allowing Kobe to get a good look for Lamar for the first Laker points of the game. After that was a entry pass to the post, getting it to a wide open Ron in the perimeter, the defense tried to recover (D-Will at that time), and Ron-ron gives it to Fish, who hits a three-pointer, 5-4 Lakers.
    I can go on and on about how sound our offense looked in this game, but there’s no need as the first two possessions were really a sign of great ball movement and spacing that led to a 17-point lead after 12.
    Another noteworthy stat: 25 assists on 35 FGs made. Haven’t had that many in a while.

    PS
    Darius, I think it would be a great help if we could also post snapshots so we could make our point with great emphasis. Just sayin’

  9. I really can’t wait to get Andrew Bynum back, if anything it’ll mean Josh Powell will go back to the bench. I love the guy as much as anyone, but he’s not a playoff-caliber basketball player. The lineup of Farmar-Brown-Kobe/Artest-Powell-Pau/Odom killed us in the 2nd and 3rd quarters.

    I think Farmar and Brown should watch Fisher playing defense and think to themselves if they’re giving even half the effort that Fisher is. For all of his physical detriments, he fights on defense. If you watch, you can see him push off guys who are trying to screen him, giving him that extra bit of space to cut off the ball handler and give his helper more time to recover. Farmar and Brown instead opt to just go under the screen or just walk around the screener and give the ball-handler a wide-open court.

    Offensive mistakes I can handle; Fisher makes his fair share of them. But if these guys can’t come in and hold a lead, our starters have to make it up when they return. And the key to holding leads is defense.

  10. To #2 Aaron’s point, that Jazz team would be terrifying if they had any real bigs for Williams to work with. As is, we should destroy them in the paint every time.

    And how many different ways can Boozer foul Odom in that picture? What a hack.

  11. Chownoir (was J) April 3, 2010 at 10:15 am

    I’m generally an optimist when it comes to the Lakers but I’m very concerned about the bench. Getting Drew back and shorter playoff rotations means less reliance but a guard will need to step up for consistent contribution. I think the starters + LO have shown they can lock down and focus to contribute at a high level when needed, but I’ve yet to see anything from the bench that would indicate that. Here’s hoping someone’s shot returns.

    Anyone else notice that when Kobe has the white wrap on his finger, his shot seems off. But the black wrap, he’s much better? I’m not sure if there’s any difference underneath when they use the different colors but it’s a pattern I’ve picked up on the past 20 some games.

    I read that Vitti and Kobe are still experimenting, hopefully they settle on one before the playoffs start. Kobe can adjust but even for him, constant adjustments have to be tough.

  12. Odom has a very rare combination of size, athleticism, and “skill potential”. I can’t think of anyone else currently in the league (other than Lebron) that can match that. Unfortunately, Odom doesn’t have the willingness to work on his skills, or the consistent focus/intensity during games, that would be required to get to consistently play at that level. But he is top 5-10 in the league when he is focused.

  13. exhelodrvr,
    The issue has been with Lamar’s head since he came into the league. As I have often said, he is a tactical player, not a strategic one – yet he also makes impulsive decisions that often go wrong. He just doesn’t see the game developing in front of him like a good PG must.

  14. D-Will showed us moments of sheer brilliance, then he disappeared… Was this Sloan telling him to distribute the ball more or a conscious decision on his part? He was dominating the game and was essentially “untouchable.” You gotta love this guy, he single-handedly brought the Jazz back. That crossover he did on Kobe looked like Tim Hardaway back in the day.

    Now, back to the Lakers… I’m extremely satisfied with the win, with Kobe’s extension, with LO being aggressive, and with our defensive intensity, but I’m really worried about Kobe’s finger. He seems to aggravate it every single game… Will this prove to be a problem the rest of his career? Will he have off-season surgery? What about his Team USA commitments? More importantly, this impacts his ability to shoot the ball. It’s extremely hard to finish near the basket when everyone is smacking down on the ball and you can’t support the added weight sufficiently to finish the play.

    If Kobe is relegated to being Mr. Free Throw in the playoffs to generate the bulk of his offense, this severely limits our ability to put teams away. If all cylinders are clicking, like last night, it’s just a minor blip that Kobe had an off-night. But I’m truly worried about the severity of this injury. It has lingered for far too long and affected everything from his defense to his free throw shooting.

  15. wow. people, LO is LO. He is not going to change. Get over it and appreciate that the man has a shoulder injury and is still being a warrior about it. Not one word is ever mentioned about his injury. Like last year when he wore the back brace while playing in the playoffs. You guys should give the man a break.

  16. Manu the answer April 3, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    We really need to sign manu ginobili this offseason look how he is playing now then imagine him doing that for us. He also can come off the bench, can play guard, and is a slasher if we can lure him to l.a. we can get another 3 peat so lets push for manu to L.A. this offseason