Lakers/Jazz Game 1: I Feel Like I’ve Seen This Before

Darius Soriano —  May 2, 2010

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In a game that was easier than the final score indicates but more difficult than it probably should have been, the Lakers defeated the Jazz 104-99 to earn that all important game 1 win to go up one game to zero in this western conference semi-final.  As a result, the Lakers now get another chance to improve on Phil Jackson’s 45-0 record in playoff series where his team wins the first game.  But, even though this was a playoff game, the contest played itself out much like a regular season Laker game.  It was quite a familiar script: the Lakers start fast and get a big lead.  The opponent fights back through hustle and desperate play to make the game close.  The Lakers raise their level of play in the closing minutes and make enough plays to win.  The end.  I feel like I’ve seen this type of performance 15-20 times during this season – which may be understating the actual number – and it made the game all too familiar in it’s flow and arc of progression.

What also seemed very familiar was the way that the Lakers seized control of this game early using the same advantages they’ve held over the Jazz for the last several seasons.  Simply put, the Lakers size and length is a real problem for Utah and the Jazz still don’t have players that are good defensive options for Kobe and Gasol.  And considering that the Lakers seem hell bent on running all their sets through these two, that’s got to be a major concern for the Jazz over the course of this series.

Early on, what stood out to me the most was how much different Utah’s defensive intensity was versus what the Lakers saw from the Thunder in the first round.  The Lakers easily got to the places on the floor that they liked and found much less resistance in their attempts to get to the basket or establish post position.  Gone was the fronting defense and the closing off of driving lanes.  No longer present was the threat of a shot blocker or a defender sliding in at the last second to draw a charge.  The Lakers were able to do what they wanted on offense for most of this game and their efficiency only fell off when they decided that they’d rather not execute and fire up long jumpers (more on that later).  The proof was the Lakers making 14 of their first 16 shots and ending the first quarter shooting 79% from the field.

And it was all on the shoulders of Kobe and Pau.  In the first quarter, Kobe made all five of his shot attempts and Pau made four of his six tries from the field.  Both Pau and Kobe were not deterred by the Jazz attempts at defending them and feasted on the one on one match ups that they saw early.  As I thought might occur, Pau and Kobe both got good looks in isolation on the weak side of the offense where they could go at their defender in space without worry of aggressive help defenders taking away their looks at the basket.  Their early success fueled the Lakers offense and enabled them to jump out to a 53-45 halftime lead.

However, as I mentioned earlier, this was not a lead that would be safe as the Jazz showed the resilience of a Jerry Sloan coached team.  Sparked by the defensive pressure and overall hustle of Ronnie Price (as well as the other Jazz reserves), Utah clawed its way back into this game by executing their offense and taking advantage of the sloppy and inconsistent focus of the Lakers reserves that they were matched up against.  Maybe the positive stretch of basketball that the Lakers bench played in the second quarter of this game went to their heads because when the bench players started to trickle into the game near the end of the third period they just didn’t seem like they were ready to play.  When the Farmar/Brown/Walton/Odom/Bynum unit was in together to start the 4th period, everything the Lakers had done to that point to be successful disappeared.  Gone was the crisp ball movement, solid screens, and player cuts.  Missing was the desire to run the offense inside-out.  Even when the ball did go into the post, every Laker just stood around and watched as Utah defenders executed hard double teams on Bynum and Odom to force turnovers.  By the time that the Lakers reserves were mercifully pulled from the game, an lead had been cut to one point and the game became a dog fight.

However, when games get close it’s always nice to have Kobe and Gasol on your side.  Offensively, it was all Kobe as he scored 13 of his game high 31 points in the final five and a half minutes of this game.  He got to the foul line, he made jumpers, he went into the post and drew a foul on a play where he bodied up his defender and then spun to shoot a turn around leaner that also dropped.  Then with the Lakers only up by three and less than 30 seconds remaining, Kobe had possession of the ball and back dribbled to near the mid court line.  With his defender pestering him, Kobe drove by his man, crossed over at the foul line, elevated and made a lay up to put the Lakers up 5 with only 22 seconds left in the game.  Meanwhile in those same closing minutes, it was Pau that was showing his all around game on both ends of the floor to help shut the door on the Jazz.  Gasol got his share points (5 points in the quarter, 25 in the game), but his but his biggest impact was on defense as he rebounded the ball (4 boards in the 4th, 12 total in the game) and protected the rim (5 total blocks on the day) by turning away Jazz shots and then securing the loose balls to give the Lakers the extra possessions that they would need.

In the end, the important key is that the Lakers won the game.  But, there are things that need to be improved upon if the Lakers are going to have continued success in this series while also building for future rounds.  Because even though the Lakers advantages over the Jazz are not going to suddenly vanish, LA will need more consistent play from their bench and will need a greater commitment to defense to close this series out.  As Odom said after the game the bench needs to play better collectively and bring an energy and togetherness that can impact the game.  And defensively, the Lakers gave up a few too many easy looks inside by Millsap and Boozer while also allowing Williams to have his way for most of the game.  The Lakers will also need to adjust to the defensive schemes that incorporated hard double teams and dig downs from perimeter defenders that the Jazz employed in the second half.  But for now, I’m just happy with the win.  We’ll have more analysis on this game and the rest of this series a bit later.

Darius Soriano

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42 responses to Lakers/Jazz Game 1: I Feel Like I’ve Seen This Before

  1. That first line describes this game perfectly. Never really in doubt. But really harder than it should have been.

  2. Looking back, this felt like the type of game we have played while on the road this season. Good start, poor play from the bench (which has tended to hold leads a bit better at home) and then our stars coming to close the game when its close.

    I think until D-Will goes for 30+ and 15 dimes, leave Fish on him. I don’t think Ron is a good matchup, and I think we get more + from a fresher Kobe on the offensive side of the ball than we would get a + from him guarding Deron. I know everyone in here feels like we’re walking through the the conference finals, and that’s fine with me. I didn’t really like the way the reporters had that attitude after the game though, asking PJ, Kobe, and Pau questions along the line of “Shouldn’t you be killing this team, why’d you let them get so close.” As earlier, the Jazz (notably at full strength) were one of the best teams after the break, and they are led by the best PG in the game right now. It would be great to finish this in 5, but we do need to play crisp to do that. They will not just go away. Sloan would empty his bench before that happens, and we saw that Miles and Milsap will give effort all the way through.

    But boy is Fesenko fun. Reminds me of the high-fives Ammo gave to Andrew Bogut after his free throws. Comedy. Balloons, Laker-girls, and the “Kiss-Cam” why worry about basketball when you’re in Tinseltown. I like how he said he doesn’t like Staples because it’s too dark, hard to see, and he has to adjust his eyes…is he really in the NBA? No ill-will though, I’m sure he’s a good kid.

  3. The biggest part of this series is the defense on williams and boozer. They don’t have anyone on their team that I consider an outside threat to get hot. Not like OKC and Jeff Green.

    Also surprising that Utah didn’t try fronting Gasol and Bynum which OKC did consistently for 6 games against us and made it difficult for us to initiate our offense.

    Kobe was also amazing, penetrating at will, getting plenty of shots inside or around the paint, where he is extremely dangerous.

  4. #3 Ray,
    I’d be concerned about Korver and Miles as they are good enough shooters if given space and time. That said, Utah isn’t going to win a series on the strength of Korver and Miles. I think Williams will be fine in this series (better than fine, actually), but until Boozer finds a way to be truly effective (and good in the moments where he’s really needed), the Jazz are going to have issues. To be completely transparent, I think Utah (when healthy) is the second best team in the West, but the Lakers are the worst possible match up for them. How that plays out over the course of a series remains to be seen, but I do think they’ll have real problems winning this series. That said, I completely agree with Taylor (comment #2), I don’t like the press trying to cause a stir by asking the type of questions that they were after the game. Regardless of the advantages that the Lakers have.

  5. Kobe and Pau were great.

    LO and Fisher were good.

    Ron was not so good with another 0 for 3 from 3

    Bench was really bad and Phil has to go to a 8 man rotation.

    Still think it goes 5 if Ron stop shooting.

  6. “I thought about [the elbow] a little too much,” Lebron James said. “It’s the first real injury that I’ve ever had to play with.”

    And the Porcelain King steps up to the plate. Give me some Mamba any day.

    No one mention Fisher’s play, I don’t want to jinx it just yet. We’ll acknowledge it in the offseason.

    I thought Phil might turn to Artest on Williams in stretches, but didn’t think it would happen so early. For the most part, he did an OK job – but he has to give Williams more room because of the speed factor, and so we didn’t see the physical, body-up defense we’re used to from Artest. It was our bigs that I was really impressed with, throwing a block party down low and inviting the entire Jazz frontline.

  7. who does Ron guard in this series? Utah doesn’t have a strong threat at the 2 or 3 that he can really sink his teeth into. he seemed to disappear through most of this game, when he wasn’t getting left in Deron’s wake.

  8. ReignOnParades May 2, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Remember how Phil always used to keep Jordan or Scottie in the game?

    The way he used to always have Shaq or Kobe on the floor?

    Has our Gasol-only offense looked that bad that Phil has decided to go away from it?

    I think the problem with Gasol-ball line ups is that we forget to feature Gasol. Oh, bench guards, woe are you.

  9. Like I said in the last thread:

    Jazz vs Lakers + Staples = Charlie Brown vs Lucy + football

  10. We’re used to dealing with great PGs, we’ve been torched by Nash and Parker for what seems like ages.

    So Williams doesn’t worry me much, I mean, we will lose a game or two perhaps due to his brilliance, but as long as we bottle up the others, we should be fine. Would have been slightly more worried with AK wreaking havoc and Memo drawing our guys out, but then again, we could probably have gotten away with siccing Artest on Memo if he does decide to play beyond the arc.

    Now that both Dallas and Denver is out, it’s hard for me to muster much worry about the Western Conference, although I think we’ll have a 6-game series or two.

  11. I don’t understand Korver at all. The guy makes 59 of 110 3PT shots during the season (.536%), which is the NBA record and also happens to be a higher percentage than his 2PT FGs, but he only takes two of those shots per game.

    Why not feature him to some degree, especially if it creates spacing for Boozer/Millsap/Price?

    177 points on 110 shots is a 1.6 efficiency, which is ridiculously good. Video game good.

  12. Cont’d

    As much as I’d like the two C’s in the east to duke it out for 7, I think I could be equally happy with the Celts being swept. It would add to LeBron worship, but it’s a small price to pay if I can watch the end of ubuntu and all that other cr..c-ness associated with the Cs.

    Sloan, I like the guy, and I really do think the guy has guts of steel. I myself probably couldn’t stomach losing to the same guy (PJ) year in and year out, especially when you have players who are good and listen to you (Stock/Malone, Williams/Boozer). And he always loses to the team with the best SG of the era… the worst kind of been there, done that…

  13. 12, I don’t know what would be better: Celtics getting swept or Lebron storming off the court, diva-style, after losing to that bunch of geriatrics.

  14. The only true fear I have with this series is that our overconfidence may lead us into forgetting how to play nearly a full game’s worth of dedicated defense. That said we bagged a win and get a chance to go up 2-0 on Tuesday. Too much Kobe and Pau and LO stepped up with great contribtions.

  15. Zephid – minor grammatical error – swept, not sweeped. I hope we sweep 3 more teams this postseason.

  16. LeBron, how do you win the MVP and then return immediately to the heat of the playoffs, which is all about team play? How do you make that astonishing psychological shift?

    Well, you know, like you say, it’s a team, and you just gotta get in there with your team and say to yourself it’s time to play team basketball, ’cause I mean it’s the playoffs, like you said, and winning the MVP means a lot I mean bein’ up there with those names, it’s just, whoa, and I gotta get out there and do my job, which is to win a championship, as a team, ’cause it’s like you said it isn’t just one guy out there, it’s a team, basketball’s a team sport, and I just do what I gotta do to help the team, which means when my arm’s like this, and I’m the MVP, you don’t let yourself get distracticated by all that stuff, ’cause you gotta get into that mindset where you’re all about doin’ it for the team, ’cause basketball isn’t just one guy with one arm doin’ all that stuff, if I had two arms, I’d be doin’ other stuff, but just with my one arm, it’s like my other arm’s not on the same team as that arm, but I can’t be thinkin’ about that, you know Stew, like your arms are a team, but if you only have one, you just gotta go out and win it for the team, like you said Magic, it’s not about me, it’s about the guys and what we’re doing, and if I have one arm or two arms, or if my team’s playin’ their best or if I am, and we just gotta play, and it’s humbling to win this but I can’t focus on this ’cause it’s the playoffs, and the intensity of focus I bring to the court has to electricalize more than me, just like, you knkow, we all get electricated by each other, ’cause it’s that time, you know, and I just, that’s what it’s all about this time of year. So I’m just trying not to get too distracticated and do my job, ’cause if you think about it, if you get to where you’re focusing on this other stuff, you can’t focus on the playoffs.

  17. Darius,

    Korver and Miles didn’t give us the matchup problems that Green did for OKC. Or at least thats how I feel as I watch the game. I worry to find out who is matched up on Green. I dont worry too much about Korver. Though he could be a Hornicek type player who could be the third weapon in the attack, he hasn’t done it at all. The way Utah is right now, the focus is on D. Will, Boozer, and then Millsap.

    Further, for Utah to have a shot, its going to have to be with their defense on our bigs and clogging the lane. Does Utah have the athletes to front our post guys? Do they have that discipline? Do they have that coaching. Mark Jackson and JVG made a comment that the Suns have a better defensive team than Utah does and that was shocking.

  18. Ray,
    I misunderstood your comment. I read that as no one that can get hot from the outside – i.e. an outside shooter that can make shots for them consistently if they go on a streak. That’s why I mentioned Korver and Miles. You’re right that Utah doesn’t have an x-factor player with the talent of OKC’s Green that can impact a game and create a match issue for the Lakers.

  19. 3ThreeIII – Just curious, could you find stats for how Korver has done specifically against us over the last 2 years (especially in the playoffs)? I’m curious to see what the stats say, but I’d imagine his efficiency decreases against us. My qualitative/gut impression is that we usually play Korver very well, whether it’s with Sasha or someone else. I never get the feeling he’s a true threat. So if we do defend him well, Sloan’s decision might make more sense. But my gut has failed me before, so I’m curious to see how Korver has held up against our team in the playoffs.

  20. 15, the best thing is my ability to go back and change the past. Now your comment makes no sense, guwahahaha.

  21. ReignOnParades May 2, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    I’m no genius at manipulating basketball reference but:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/h2h_finder.cgi?request=1&p1=korveky01&p2=bryanko01

    Scrolling down to Korver’s last few years it seems obvious that their play index hasn’t been fully updated, but aside from that it doesn’t look like Korver has been able to get his shot off or even find consistent minutes against the Lakers as a Jazz player.

  22. Great post from Kevin at TH, really worth the read:

    http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/15662/the-long-and-short-of-the-lakers-jazz-matchup

    Nothing ground-breaking, but Kevin has a way of tying things together and making even simple concepts sound eloquent.

  23. Can someone tell me how Ron played 32 minutes with NO rebounds while missing 3 more 3-pointers. He is shooting 15% from 3’s.

    Fisher had 3 rebounds. Ammo had one from the bench.

    I continue to have problems with Ron’s contributions.

  24. Lamar Odom = Basketball’s Mariana Rivera? Seems to be only a factor in the last 3 minutes of important games and then plays brilliantly.

    Fwiw, let me be a minority of one in terms of stating that I thought this game was very much in doubt at the end (when Utah was picking us apart with all their close-in offense). I agree that we should dominate this team – and further, that many of the specifics of that domination were on display today in the first 3 quarters – but when we were down 4 with a couple of minutes to play and our offense was stagnant and our defense helpless, I for one thought we were going to lose.

  25. Here’s just an interesting thought to throw out. What about swapping Ron for Luke when we play a team that doesn’t have a star for Ron to guard. He would be able to play his ad-hoc style with the second unit, definitely get his shots where he wanted them, because hey, we all know the second unit doesn’t run the offense. Luke would force our 1st unit even more so to run the system. And…isn’t Luke 2/3 from downtown this playoffs?

    I say this all in jest, I love Ron, he’s probably the reason we won the OKC series. I gave him a full pass on offense last series because I assumed he exerted 100% energy on defense, and I was perfectly fine with that. This series is still very young, but it looks like the playoff trend for him is continuing. But I’m still waiting for him to break out and shoot 47% the rest of the way from behind the arc.

    I know it’s always someone we have to be after on this blog, if its not TBH, its Fish, Jordan, Shannon…just giving Ron Ron his time in the sun.

    But…wouldn’t Luke be a good fit back with the starters?

  26. Dex, is that a real quote from Lebron?

  27. Asking PJ to put Ron-Ron on the second unit, is like asking him to put Fisher on the second unit, it is a good idea, but will never happen in our lives, as long as PJ is coach. Great, great idea though for this series, and Luuuke seems healthy out there. We could have easily lost this game, but we didn’t…

  28. I like the idea of Luke getting more playing time at the expense of Ron this series, but I don’t think he should start. It looks like Luke spent a lot of time during his rehab practicing his shot. He looked pretty solid out there, especially during that one fast break.

    Luke = blur :D

  29. Dex’s bit is fabricated and perfect.

  30. HAHAHA

    Dex, nice post =)

    #26 No, it’s not a real quote

  31. Oh boy is Fisher showing why he is our far and away best point guard!

    I think Ron’s offense last night was good though. His shooting is still of, but inside he showed some good things. True that he isn’t the best fit in any one-on-one matchup in this series. But throughout the year we have heard the other Lakers talk about his overall impact on defence, how he talks and drives the team to play on that side of the ball.

    That will be much needed against the Jazz’s constantly moving flex offense. Maybe we can’t see it, or measure it… but I think Ron’s impact on defence is still considerable in this round.

    Any way to extend Kobe’s run with the bench guys? Maybe take him out earlier in the first? Let Ron or Shannon get some time on SG, while running things through Pau and Bynum/Odom.

    The let Kobe dominate the reserves and scare the (#*!#$@) out of Farmars tendency to shoot jumpers!

  32. OK, fellas, win game 2, and we are on our way.

  33. Dick Barnett,

    I’m glad you were proven wrong last series. You see us taking this one pretty easily like everyone here?

  34. 16. Dex, hilarious.

  35. Just watched the daily dime and I did find it pretty funny how Lebron basically said, “I want to be the greatest player on the court every game. That’s what I want. Everything I do is so you can see me play and see that I’m the best player in the world. Individual success is not important, it’s a team game. I have to win a championship so I can be one of the greatest players of all time. Let’s get my teammates up here!!!”

  36. Dex, I could seriously hear LeBron while reading your post. I was very sure it was made up, but at the same time, I am thoroughly convinced ;)

  37. Its a shame this team can’t run the pick&roll… we all know the lakers run the triangle but that’s just a name for an especific triple post ofense and by following the triple post ofense you can kill undersized teams when you have 2 big guys if one of them is capable to shoot the midrange and has a feeling for passing and the other is long and powerful in the low post. Wait, this looks like the Lakers-Jazz preview.

    What I would like to see Kobe with the ball on the 3p line in front of the rim, Bynum makes the pick on his right side while Fish is open on the right corner and Artest on the left elbow 3p and Pau on the left low post.
    Bynum rolls it while Kobe can drive, dish it to Bynum open for Fish if D-Will closes on him or give it to Pau when switch the low post for the top of the key while Bynum enters the paint.

    The interesting think here is that, if the defender wants to cut the passing line between Kobe and Bynum they would have to either change defenders (which would mean Miles on Bynum and Kobe-Fesenko, something I’d take every single possession) or Fesenko/Milsap covering Bynum in front of him giving up the hole in the middle. This is where Pau’s passing habilities come to play. Giving the ball to Pau on the top of the key give’s the Lakers 3 options:
    1. Pau shoots it.
    2. Pau drives left shooting over a shorter Boozer. If Artest’s defender helps Boozer, Artest drive the baseline for Pau’s assist.
    3. Pau sees the hole left by Bynum’s defender on the left side of the pick under the basket right after the pick&roll and Bynum breaks the rim on a dunk.

    It’s just as simple, and I haven’t seen a decent pick&roll situation since when Pau came from his early season injury.

  38. Renato Afonso May 3, 2010 at 3:57 am

    I know it is a pipe dream, but what if Sasha came out of PJ’s doghouse to guard Deron Williams for a while? Seriously, why not?

    Regarding the second unit, again my pipe dream of having Sasha and Luke on the floor with Odom, Bynum or Gasol and Farmar… That second unit would be more focused on execution, since we don’t need that much athleticism against the Jazz.

  39. swedishmeatballs May 3, 2010 at 4:05 am

    37

    Sasha is still not recovered from his injury i think. And I believe he was already coming out of the doghouse just before he attracted that injury..

  40. Does it count as inconsistent play from the bench if this is pretty much how the bench has performed for nearly 90 games this season?

    There comes a time when you realize that the Laker bench is what it is. They’re not going to magically flip a switch and start playing better. Sometimes this season, discussion of the Laker bench reminded me of how people used to talk about Odom in the early couple of years he came over to the Lakers. “Odom needs to be more consistent! He’s got star talent but doesn’t always play like it.” etc.

    Just like, by that point in his career, Odom was who he was and wasn’t about to change, this bench is pretty much what it is going to be at this stage of this season.

  41. Woke up feelin’ good about Fish. I’d just about counted him out, like D Will in that interview listing the great vet point guards still active, then swallowing, and naming Fish from politeness and respect for his elders–D Will’s a class act–but then Fish seemed to come awake out there a little bit. My money’s on he pulls himself together for this last Hurrah. Flickers of Fisher out there a little, Ah got a good feelin’. We OK. Go LA

  42. We definitely made this game tougher than it needed to be. Should have won going away.

    Honestly speaking, I find myself a bit disinterested in this series. Maybe if Utah were healthy, it would peak my interest more, but with that being said, I still feel, even @ 100%, we would still take them out with relative ease. As we all know, the ‘offs are all about matchups & this team just isn’t capable of doing that (matching up) against us. I believe for this entire series, we’ll do what everyone knows we’ve been prone to do. Play Down To The Competition. We know, deep down, that Utah isn’t a threat (especially depleted). Hopefully, we won’t allow this team to steal more than a game.

    STANDING OVATION: Kobe & Pau

    LAKER 4 LIFE ….. GO HARD OR GO HOME