If it wasn’t clear before the series started, it is now – the Lakers are just a better team than the Jazz. The advantages in size, length, and quickness in the front court and the presence of a rejuvenated Kobe Bryant in the back court once again proved too much for Utah to handle in game 2 as the Lakers took down the Jazz 111-103 to take a two games to zero lead in this western conference semi final.
Even though the Lakers pretty much cruised to their second win in as many tries, the game didn’t start out with the same feel as game one. Utah was the aggressor early and took the lead on the hot outside shooting of Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews. Those two combined to make their first three attempts from behind the arc, sparking the Jazz offense. The Jazz just looked quicker to the ball from the outset and played with a sense of urgency that the Lakes had difficulty matching in the opening minutes.
However, that’s about as positive as it got for the Jazz on this evening (besides the strong performance from Millsap and a late game run that is seemingly a staple of these Lakers/Jazz games). And that’s because the things that the Jazz want to do well – execute their offense, score inside, take advantage of their perimeter star’s advantage against weaker defenders – the Lakers can do better. And that, in a nutshell is what this series is about.
It’s as plain as day just by examining the box score. Because even on a night where Boozer and Millsap combine for 46 points (on 38 shots) and 33 rebounds (12 offensive), the Lakers trio of big men (Gasol/Bynum/Odom) were more efficient and simply better as they combined for 50 points (on only 24 shots!) and grab 44 rebounds (13 offensive). And on a night where Deron Williams gets held relatively in check with a line of 15 points and 9 assists, Kobe goes for 30 points and 8 assists of his own. When your best players get out performed by the other teams best players at the level that the Jazz did, a loss will ensue nearly every time. The only time that it won’t be the case is when a role player (or two) have such fantastic games that it balances out and tonight the Jazz just didn’t have enough from those secondary players. Sure CJ Miles’ 20 points look good, but Ron Artest essentially matched that with 17 of his own.
The Lakers were just too good at too many positions tonight. Kobe was excellent on the low block and played the facilitator role perfectly for most of this game. He was able to back down whatever defender the Jazz threw at him to the point that a second defender was forced to at least come over and help (if not double him entirely). And when that second defender did rotate, Kobe was ready with a pin point pass to a cutter along the baseline or a flashing big into the paint to set up an easy shot. Or, he’d just shoot and score if the defense gave him enough space. #24 was just masterful. And when it wasn’t Kobe, it was Gasol showing off all facets of his offensive game. Whether it was the jump hook (with either hand), a spinning jumper off a curl, or a deep fade away jumper with the clock running down, Pau was magnificent on offense. You throw in Bynum looking much healthier than in game 1 and a return of the aggressive Odom and you have what (longtime FB&G’er) JD Hastings called “the closest blowout (he’s) ever seen”.
And so, here we are again. For the third straight year, the Jazz trail the Lakers 2-0 in a playoff series and they’re searching for answers on how to get a win. Maybe they’ll try to ugly up the game or play more physical or maybe Williams explodes, but in the end will it matter? I’m not trying to say that this series is over, but the Lakers are halfway home to getting the necessary 4 wins and the Jazz don’t look any closer to a series win than in any of the other years that they’ve been down in a series against LA. Especially when considering their injury situation with Okur being out and Kirilenko – though likely to be back in game 3 – surely not 100% physically. It’s just looking less and less likely that they’ll survive. They’ll get a win I’m sure, and maybe even two. But can they win 4 of the next 5? You tell me.
Some other stats from this game (good and bad):
*Utah only shot 39.6% from the field (47.5% true shooting) and had an offensive rating of 105. Those are very good numbers considering that the Jazz shot 49.1% (56.5% true shooting) with an offensive rating of 108 during the regular season. If the Lakers can continue this level of defense while also keeping the Jazz off the foul line (and force a few more turnovers), it will be tough for Utah to win a game.
*The flip side to that coin is how the Lakers offense performed. 58.5% true shooting with a 113 offensive rating for the Lakers. Plus they had 26 assists on their 40 made baskets. These are numbers consistent with last year’s offensive juggernaut. It helps that Utah doesn’t have a shot blocker to deter Kobe’s drives to the basket while also lacking the size to effectively deal with our bigs, but I’m still impressed.
*Everything wasn’t positive for the Lakers as they had 20 turnovers in this game, including 7 by Kobe. As Phil Jackson said after the game the Lakers “didn’t seem prepared for the aggressiveness from the Jazz” and Kobe “was maybe a bit careless with the ball”. And while he also explained that the Jazz were determined to not let the Lakers just dribble in front of them without making a play on the ball, the Lakers must still be more conscientious while in possession of the ball. Obviously, the Lakers still proved that they can win with that number of miscues, but this is something to monitor as this series changes venues and the tenor of the series changes to a raucous Energy Solutions Arena.
*Jordan Farmar seems really out of sorts. He had six points on six shots (both on three pointers), didn’t run the offense well, didn’t attempt a FT, and was out of control on a couple of drives in the fourth quarter. And if you follow Kevin Ding on twitter (and if you don’t, you should) you’d also know that on more than one occasion LO had words with Farmar about what he was doing while on the court. Not Jordan’s best night tonight, for sure. Phil continues to give him minutes (which I understand, we’ll need Farmar in this playoff run), but the Lakers will also need him to be under control. Tonight, he wasn’t and his performance was eerily similar to what the bench showed in the last game when they gave up the lead. In fact, the Lakers were well on their way to letting their 4th quarter lead slip away again before Phil pulled Jordan and went back to Fisher.
I went to the game again tonight… and what really jumps out at you is the lack of effort Lamar Odom puts into boxing out. Most of his rebounds comes from his ability to read the ball off the rim and utilize his length. I would love to re watch the game and see how many offensive rebounds Lamar Odom gave up because he simply didn’t care enough to find his man and put a body on him. Part of rebounding (Bynum and Artest are the best Lakers at this) is not necessarily getting the rebound yourself but boxing your man out so someone else on your team can get the basketball. Lamar is great at going and getting rebounds but he also gives up so many offensive boards because he is simply lazy.
Jordan seems to have contol problems. Which is not good for a point guard and his 3rd year of playoffs. I think he has regressed since his rookie year.
Phil needs to stop putting Brown and Jordan in the game at the same time. Second game they gave up big leads.
No way he is back next year. Who would have guessed that of the 4 point guards that came out of UCLA the last 4 years Jordan would be the worst.
Phil had to put Jordan in. Fish had 4 fouls at that point – a lot of the lakers had a bunch of fouls – and I believe had played a lot of minutes. Lots of jacked up shots tonight – at times I thought the Lakers looked bored. OKC fought them much tougher on every possession, and I think thats why they let Utah back in this game. That is a dangerous mindset, as the Jazz will be better at home, and the calls we get here we certainly wont get there.
We can all thank OKC for making it easier for us to go into Salt Lake for games 3 and 4. A couple of years ago, we played Utah in what was titled “the loudest stadium in the NBA” but now this thing will be like playing in a retirement center. I remember Craig Sager reporting in game 4 that OKC was about 40% louder than a jet engine on full throttles! I work on Tankers and I got to say, That’s frikkin LOUD!!! I’m talkin’ ears bleeding… Literally. (Maybe a crowd is just at a more tolerable pitch than the unbearable howl of a jet engine.)
Here’s to the Lakers taking this reaquired swagger with them on the road.
The funny thing is that there is ONLY 1 difference between now and a month or so ago: Kobe’s back.
That’s it. This entire season, sans the first month or two, Kobe has simply not been Kobe. I think it was the elephant in the room that no one wanted to talk about. And that’s: age has caught up with Kobe and he just isn’t Kobe anymore. We all held on to the belief, or should i say WISH, that it was just injuries and not age.
I personally thought it was a mixture of age and confidence (believe it or not). He was attempting to get fouls called instead of playing his game. He was playing like an idiot, not playing controlled ball, not having a GAME plan, etc.
Well folks, guess what? Kobe is back. And this team with Kobe back, is just as good as last year’s championship team!
Kobe’s back, and i for one have only 1 thing to say: bout time!
How in the hell do you stop that Kobe iso play with people cutting?
I saw lakers ran that play so many times and they get a basket almost everytime
Jordan is a one-man team in a PG’s body.
Gabriel R. says
Who would have thought Fisher would still be the best PG the Lakers have(don’t know if that says much) but there’s not a *whole* lot that one can complain at this point in the playoffs about Fisher’s game.
He’s shooting a good percentage of 3s, his D is slightly better at the moment, and he has a control over the game that neither Farmar or Brown have.
Just imagine the possibilities with a guard without 35/36 year old legs.
I think this is where Sasha’s injury really hurts. I know when he went down, some people scoffed that it was no big deal. But with Jordan playing badly, Sasha would be another option. Sasha had shown he could play under control, do the little things and overall just run the offense too.
Additionally Farmar seems to respond best in the past when he’s felt heat for playing time. Now he’s the only true backup PG option and he lacks focus in his play. Even if Sasha wasn’t playing regularly, just the threat of being able to use him instead of Farmar might be enough to get Jordan to focus harder.
Anyone know Sasha’s latest status?
chris h says
Darius, have you noticed that it’s kind of like 5 on 4 when they have that Kyrylo Fesenko in the game? he seems afraid to even get open for a pass, and scared to death to take a shot.
I kept thinking during the game that if the shoe was on the other foot, I would be feeling ok that we were losing under the conditions that we had a guy off the street playing center, and thus, 5 on 4, pretty hard to win under those conditions.
so, we’re playing way off him, no worries like Mehmet, that he’ll drain a 3, or long ball, so we sag off, make it hard for him to even pass.
speaking of sagging off, it’s crazy that they dare Ron to shoot like that, one of these games he’s gonna get hot and that 20 to 25 points will be a game decider. (although he’s much better from the corner than from out in front)
Lamar has never been an boxer-outer. Usually his athleticism allows him to get away with it, but against smart/well-coached/hustling players, it becomes a factor.
Craig W. says
On aspect of having Sasha available is that Phil wouldn’t have to play Farmar and Brown together.
The bottom line with this series is that offensively, the Lakers have the Jazz checkmated. As the game went on, I became less and less frustrated with the Lakers’ inability to make it a full on blowout and more and more resigned, out of respect for the Jazz, that the blowout wasn’t coming. They made the Lakers play all 48 minutes last night, just as in Game 1, and in every game in the series I imagine. For once, it’s not the Lakers’ inability to focus, but rather a hard nosed never say die team demanding the Lakers’ full attention. Kudos to them.
That being said, the points about Lamar’s boxing out do have some merit but I’d counter that he often makes plays in which he challenges a shot as a helper then gets the rebound, which requires an awful lot of effort and athleticism. the Jazz are getting too many offensive rebounds in this series imo, and the turnovers were just annoying last night, but overall that’s just nitpicking in the face of an extremely efficient offensive performance. Would really like to get that Game 3, and I’m loving the extra rest the Lakers are getting. It made a huge difference in my mind between Games 4 and 5 of the Thunder series and provides a huge opportunity to handle their business on Saturday.
Jordan is lost offensively, but we will need him eventually. To me, it’s just a matter of time before he ends up with the Knicks playing with a coach and system (up and down and no defensive responsibility) best suited for him. After Howland and Phil, I think he’s had enough of structure and defensive accountability.
As Plaschke so eloquently put it, this is an “Intermission” for us. We definitely look bored out there. We know that we can turn it on whenever we choose against this team. And I know that they’re a professional team, but in my opinion, this is a mismatch. And it was definitely clear to me b4 the series started that we were better than this collection of Jazz players. An advantage @ every position except PG (which, with all due respect to Fish, we’re accustomed to). As I said on a previous post, I’ll be shocked if we were to lose a game to this team. Being that it’s so blatantly obvious how superior we are compared to them, if we were to lose any games in this series, it would mean that, some way some how, we defeated ourselves.
@14, Tra. That’s just being disrespectful to a solid professional team. It’s not wholly unbelievable to think that at home, a couple of Utah shooters could get white hot while Deron has one of his trandscendent games. A 35pt 18 assist night where Lakers just can’t stop him. Utah would win and it wouldn’t mean Lakers defeated themselves. But that said, it should be a one game exception at most. Lakers take care of business and this should be a five game series max. A sweep and rest would be nice but I’m not counting on it and would just consider it gravy if it actually happened.
Update on Sasha, according to OC Register, he could be available if series runs longer than 4 games. So sometime next week. That would put it right at the four week mark of when he got hurt. The added bonus of all this time out is his shoulder is almost healed.
Hopefully upon his return, he’ll display the play he had the last few games of reg season.
I suspect we will close out the series in Game 5 at home.
Last night the Lakers played to their strengths, minimized their weaknesses, gave a good effort all 48 minutes and, to no one’s surprise, won.
I think the Lakers will win Game 3, and lose Game 4. Sloan, and the Jazz, have too much pride to be swept.
It has been great watching Bynum, Gasol and Lamar play together so fluidly.
Craig W. says
I don’t think anyone on this blog has any question about Lamar’s unreal athleticism. It is his basketball focus that is sometimes questioned. He has the size and strength to box out almost any player, but he doesn’t have the mindset for it.
John Morris says
Sasha going down to injury isn’t a big deal. He hasn’t contributed all year. Besides, it makes the game easier for me to watch; it bugs me seeing a guy getting paid 3+ million dollars to sit on the bench.
Phillip has the morning links up.
Well… I don’t know if Lamar has the size to box out a PF well… he is very slim… but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. His lack of effort to box out cost the Lakers the first round series against the Suns when Lamar gave up an offensive rebound that let to Tim Thomas’ game tying 3 pointer to end regulation in Game 6. I will never forgive him for that.
@15, Chownoir: When a team is missing major parts, how can it be considered “Solid?” As I stated, they’re a “Professional Team.” But I definitely do not consider them “Solid.” Maybe with a healthy AK47 & Okur, they would be considered solid. Definitely not with Fesenko & Koufos. I understand that under Coach Sloan they have solid Principles, but in order for those principles to be put in effect, you need a healthy roster and players who are used to playing under this type of playoff pressure. Fesenko, Koufos & Matthews are not. If we play with the intensity & sense of urgency that we displayed in games 5 and 6 ‘gainst OKC, there’s no way that THIS COLLECTION of Jazz Players should get a game.
BTW: Thanks for the update on Sasha. I honestly don’t believe that we’ll need him for this series, but down the line, definitely.
Farmar got pulled in the fourth after he forced a drive to the hoop, got completely rejected, then tried to get a steal on Price about 60 feet from the basket, leading to Price getting a full head of steam at the basket and drawing a shooting foul. Getting blocked on a quick help move from Millsap is one thing – blowing the ensuing defensive possession in an effort to make up for it = a rookie play.
I think Farmar is really unlikely to have his head in the game against Utah – he’s either getting serially owned by Deron Williams, who is way too physical for him, or he’s pressing when he gets a chance to face a backup instead of D-Will. So instead of just penetrating on Price to break down the D, then making a play for somebody, he thinks he has to force an unprotected reverse layup. No patience.