Bynum Update: Via the twitter feed of Mike Trudell (Lakers Reporter for Lakers.com) the MRI on Bynum’s knee show a “small tear of the anterior horn of the lateral miniscus” and that “this is something that he will try to play through”. Trudell also says that “last June, Bynum had a very small tear in this same area and that the hyper-extension re-aggravated it”. Bynum is officially listed as questionable for game one, though the consensus seems to be that he’s going to try and give it a go. Here is the official word from Lakers.com.
As I mentioned in the game 6 recap, there is no rest for the weary as the Lakers start their second round series against the Utah Jazz on only one days rest. And while the same can be said for Utah (who also closed out there 1st round series last night), they had the advantage of winning their game at home. So, as Phil Jackson said in the post game presser “(the Jazz) get to go home to their own beds” while the Lakers got to board a plane and fly back to Los Angeles. However, there won’t be any looking backwards for the Lakers nor any complaints, the Jazz are the opponent and it’s time to focus on the matter at hand – beating Utah on Sunday to get that very critical first game win.
Before we get into the meat of the match up with the Jazz, a little history on the season series. The Lakers won the 3 of the 4 games against Utah in the regular season. In the three victories, the Lakers won by 24, 15, and 14 points. In their lone defeat, the Lakers lost by 8. Over the course of those games, a few themes shone through: First is the fact that the Lakers do a very good job defending Carlos Boozer. Aside from his breakout game in April where he scored 20 points (8-16 FGA) and grabbed 18 rebounds (4 offensive) in a loss, Boozer didn’t fare well against the Lakers shooting only 39% (15-38) and averaging 11.3 points in those three contests (including a 6-9 effort for 12 points in the lone Jazz win). Second was that the Lakers controlled the glass against the Jazz, winning the rebounding battle in every contest (and grabbing double digit offensive rebounds in all but one game). The third theme was that despite Deron Williams being a match up nightmare for the Lakers (more on him later), he never had that huge game where he single handedly destroyed us (like he did against Denver in their first round series). He got his numbers – averaging a shade over 17 points and almost 10 assists – but he was not the threat that you would think he would be considering he was matched up almost exclusively against our PG’s (Fish, WOW, Farmar) – not guys that you’d exactly label “stoppers” on that end of the floor.
So, how does this translate to the playoffs? First, we must examine the state of each team. Right now, Utah is banged up. In game one of the Denver series, Memhet Okur ruptured his achilles tendon and is out until sometime next season. Andrei Kirilenko has also missed a lot of time recently, playing in only one of the Jazz’s last twenty games with a strained calf. Odds are he’ll be back in this series, but in what physical condition remains to be seen. You add these injuries to the trade deadline deal that shipped out Ronnie Brewer, and the Jazz aren’t the same team that the Lakers have faced in the regular season nor in playoffs the last two years. But the biggest injury of all may be one that we don’t yet have a lot of information on. In the closing minutes of last night’s game game 6, Deron banged his arm against Chris Andersen and suffered what is being reported as a bruised left elbow. Will that injury bother him in this series? The answer to that question will play a big role in this series.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are still awaiting the results of the MRI on Andrew Bynum’s right knee. Hyper-extension is never a word that I like to hear, but hopefully his post game thoughts on the matter hold true and he’ll be okay to play. Then there is the injury to Sasha. Most would agree that Vujacic is only a fringe player at this point and his absence is not that big a concern. However, tuck it away in the back of your mind: Phil loves match ups and over the past two seasons he’s used Sasha as an irritant to sharp shooting Jazz man Kyle Korver. So, if Kyle starts to break free and nail some jumpers, missing Sasha could be a bigger deal than many might be thinking right now.
But enough about the regular season, injuries, and trends. This series starts tomorrow and we need to break this baby down. There are many keys to this series and we’ll hopefully touch on many of them over the next week (we’ll definitely have time based off the schedule for this series). So, I’ll let Zephid lay out some of the keys of this series (with some additional note from yours truly):