Records: Lakers 55-21 (2nd in West), Jazz 36-41 (11th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.6 (4th in NBA), Jazz 110.3 (11th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.2 (6th in NBA), Jazz 110.3 (24th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Jazz: Earl Watson, C.J. Miles, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Kyrylo Fesenko
Injuries: Lakers: Devin Ebanks (out); Jazz: Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Andrei Kirilenko, Memhet Okur, Ronnie Price (all out)
Keys To The Game: The Lakers faced this same Jazz team less than a week ago, so the memory of that awful first quarter is still ingrained in our memories — and those early game woes are exactly what the Lakers need to eliminate in this contest. Sure, the Lakers went into the second quarter only down six points, but they were fortunate that the Jazz missed their last four shots to allow them to close what was once a 24-13 lead for Utah. So how did the Jazz get off to that fast start? Two things: C.J. Miles and offensive rebounding. I asked Clint Peterson of The Utah Jazz Blog about those things specifically:
FB&G: C.J. Miles had a great first half against the Lakers. What is it that he does that was so tough for the Lakers to defend, and what do you think the Lakers should do to better defend him tonight?
Clint Peterson: The entire Jazz team came out aggressive forcing the ball into the paint in the first quarter, especially Miles. A look at the shot chart shows Miles with a nice cluster of penetration buckets early on in the game. When Miles is instead kept on the perimeter and forced into contested jumpers, as the Lakers’ defense began doing from the second stanza onward, Utah’s offense stalls out.
The FG% percentages as well as the shot chart bear this out. In the first, Utah shot 50%, the second 33%, the third 37%. The Lakers’ defense went into lockdown mode in the paint after the initial bloodied nose they received.
FB&G: Al Jefferson and Fes did a great job on the boards in the previous matchup. How can they translate their positive rebounding numbers into a closer game and/or win tonight?
CP: It’s no secret that rebounding has been an Achilles heel for the Jazz this season, so in hindsight what many of us considered an April Fool’s Day joke being played on us when Fes starting was first announced instead began to make sense when the Jazz corralled 28 first-half rebounds. That’s 72% of the team’s usual rebounds claimed for an entire game in a single half. Against the lengthy Lakers no less. Jefferson and Fesenko collected nearly half of those rebounds on their own, 12 of ‘em. They would only nab six more between ‘em in the second half. On the flip side, Andrew Bynum had only one first-half rebound, and Pau Gasol four. Bynum would finish out the second half by quadrupling his rebounds, grabbing four, and Gasol five more. Throw in glass-eater Lamar Odom’s seven boards since the start of the second period and the Lakers closed the game down only five on the glass, 39-44.??The Jazz netted 15 offensive rebounds in the last meeting. Unfortunately, many of those were due to poor shots in the first place, so Utah needs to have a better shot selection and better ball movement. The Jazz are always at or near tops in assists. Not that time. The Jazz had only 15 dimes as a team, indicating that when they were hot they were hot, but when not… [You can read the full Q&A session here]
Let’s take a look at some video to further illustrate Peterson’s points. First, Clint pointed out that C.J. Miles was aggressively getting into the paint in the first quarter, which may be an understatement considering Miles made five field goals in the opening period, four of which were in the paint. The bothersome part about Miles 10 first quarter points was the fact that the Lakers gave him the points instead of forcing him into more difficult shots. Three of his 1st quarter baskets came in transition, two of them because of forced turnovers. One of them came off an isolation where Kobe was beat off the dribble and Pau rotated late. This suggests several flaws in the Lakers game early: Sloppy taking care of the ball, lazy transition defense and a lack of attention to detail. Check the video:
Along with Miles, the Lakers allowed too many offensive rebounds in the first quarter — six of them! For a team that has the ninth worst offensive rebound rate differential and the seventh worst total rebound rate in the league, you could say that the Lakers were awfully pathetic on the boards in the first quarter. On four of those offensive rebounds, the guy rebounding the ball didn’t have to work for that rebound, meaning no Laker put a body on him to box out. Again, we’re talking about lazy efforts and lack of attention to detail. Clint mentioned that the Jazz shot 50 percent in the first quarter, what he didn’t mention is that the Jazz earned three extra field goals after offensive rebounds, and if you take away all of the Jazz field goal attempts after offensive rebounds, the Jazz only shot 43.4 percent. Look at the tape:
This is a Lakers team that is clearly superior in terms of talent, meaning that if they take care of business early, this could be a night where the Lakers fans leave Staples in search of free tacos. For three straight games now, the Lakers have found themselves down early, fighting upward battles from the second quarter and beyond. The next step for this team in preparation for the post season should be getting off to good early starts, and tonight is a fantastic night to start.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Fox Sports West locally and NBATV nationally. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710am.