Monday, April 27, 2009

Lakers – Jazz: Lakers led by Kobe’s big night blowout the Jazz 108-94

Prior to the start of Game 4 Kobe Bryant didn’t speak with the media, shake the hands of other players, or exchange any pleasantries he was all business. Kobe set the tone early and the Lakers followed their leader.

In the first two games of the series Kobe wore two hats, the facilitator early and the closer late. Big parts of the NBA Playoffs are about adjustments and swings in momentum.

In Game 3 the adjustments that the Jazz made were to throw double-teams at Kobe and trap him frequently, he couldn’t get into a rhythm and had his worse playoff shooting game since 2005 going 5-for-24 and finishing the game with 18 points.

In Game 4 Kobe had his mind made up that he was going to come out aggressive and look for his shot early and put the pressure on Utah’s defense. Kobe scored 13 of the Lakers first 15 points, but the Jazz ended the first quarter with a 25-20 lead.

The Lakers went on a 16-2 scoring run in the second quarter to take a seven point lead. Los Angeles increased the lead to 12 points; the Jazz cut the lead to seven points at halftime.

The ‘Black Mamba’ was on the attack and finished the first half with 24 points.After letting a winnable game 3 get away Los Angeles was determined to win this game and grab a stranglehold on the series.

The Lakers had a total team effort, got into the passing lanes and got their hands on several passes, played solid defense, knocked down timely shots and won the rebounding battle.

The second half was more of the same as the Lakers held onto the lead this time and put the Jazz away in the third quarter. The Jazz collectively hit a bad note and before they knew it were down by 19 points.

The Lakers were able to push the lead up to as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter.The Lakers will be prepared to do everything necessary to put the Jazz away in the closeout game.

By winning on the road in Game 4 the Lakers put the Jazz in a precarious position of winning a must-win Game 5 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles where they’ve lost the last 11 times. Game 5 will be on Monday April 27th on FSN & TNT.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lakers - Jazz: Lakers Stumble in Utah lose a nail-biter 88-86

The Lakers stumbled in Game 3 of their best of seven series with the Jazz and lost a nail-biter 88-86. It was an ugly game for both teams. It was just what the Jazz wanted and exactly what the Lakers coaching staff had warned the players of and were attempting to avoid.

The Lakers were out-shot by the Jazz and spent the entire game marred in a shooting slump, except for Lamar Odom. It was a good thing that he made the trip, he came off the bench and put up a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds.

Kobe Bryant wasn’t immune to the horrible shooting exhibited by the entire team; he came close to not scoring at all in the first half. He finished the game with 18 points on five-for-24 shooting. The Lakers built a lead and were unable to maintain said lead, again.

Andrew Bynum playing in his seventh game back from injury played a grand total of seven minutes and spent the game in foul trouble, this has to change. He wasn’t the only Laker dealing with foul trouble; it has been a problem in all three games of this series.

The Lakers have a size advantage and have to move their feet and play defense without fouling.

The Lakers were killed in the rebounding category, again 55-40. There is no excuse for being out-hustled and allowing Carlos Boozer to have a 23 point 22 rebound night.

The worse thing about this game was that the Lakers shot an appalling 61.5% from the free throw line going 16-26, meaning if the Lakers were able to knock down their free throws we could call Game 3 a close game, but still refer to it as a Lakers win.

Give the Jazz credit for doing what they had to do to secure a win. The Lakers are now the team that needs to adjust to what Utah is doing. It is simply playoff basketball.

This isn’t the time to push the panic button or for the “I told you speech” and the coaching staff knows that. It has been stated on more than one occasion that a loss is the best teacher. The questions I have in regards to the Los Angeles Lakers are will this loss help them play with a sense of urgency? Will it help them develop the necessary killer instinct to put teams away?

The Lakers stumbled and lost so far it is the only loss. Keep in mind that the win was there for the taking and the Lakers failed to capitalize. Game 3 will be remembered as a game that the team will look back upon as one that was there for the taking and they let it get away.

It was good to see the Jazz win a game at home that means that we know have a series on our hands. The Lakers will make adjustments and play better in Game 4. Some of those adjustments might be Lamar Odom being put back in the starting lineup, double-teaming Deron Williams to get the ball out of his hands.

I would like to see the Lakers focus on boxing out more to be in better rebounding position. The entire team needs to step their game up, play mistake free with a sense of urgency and look to put the Jazz away.

Game 4 will be Saturday 6:00 pm PST. Kobe Bryant has yet to have a scoring explosion in the 2009 NBA Playoffs this could be an occasion for the Black Mamba to go off and lead the Lakers to a victory.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lakers are prepared for a real test in Utah

The Lakers are in Salt Lake City, Utah to play the Jazz in game three of the series. The Lakers have owned the Jazz in Los Angeles but that hasn’t been the case in Utah. This is why this game becomes the most important game of the series.

The Lakers came up just short of their goal of acquiring the NBA’s best overall record but lost in that pursuit was the fact that the team earned the league’s best record on the road.

To be a champion you need to win on the road, also it has to be mentioned that the Jazz have the 5th best home record in the league. The Lakers have put their depth on display in the first two games and Kobe Bryant has worn two hats, facilitator early and closer late.

It has worked so well that it might not change however if the Lakers don’t shoot well no one will be opposed to seeing the black mamba on the attack and scoring 30+ points. The flow of the game and what the Utah defense does will determine if that will happen.

The Utah Jazz aren’t going to lie down, the Lakers need to put this team away. A win tonight will put the Jazz in dire straights and give L.A. a strangle-hold on the series.

"The series is not over. They just did what they were supposed to do - win at home,'' Utah point guard Deron Williams said. "Now we've got to do what we're supposed to do.''

A win tonight will make this a hallow claim. However, he is one of two Jazz players that have been outstanding, he has averaged 25.5 points & 13 assists, Carlos Boozer making amends for last season’s playoff showing against the Lakers, is averaging 23.5 points & 9.5 rebounds.

Expect both players to continue to play well. The task will be making sure that one of the reserves doesn’t have a hot shooting night. The Utah reserves play better at home than on the road and the entire team will playing with a high energy level. The Lakers will have to match that intensity to keep the Jazz at bay.

The Lakers need to do a better job of taking care of the ball; they’ve amassed 36 turnovers in the series. The Lakers need to control the tempo, glass, get back in transition and rotate out to three point shooters.

Establish Pau in the post and allow him to set the table for his teammates. The Lakers need to get Andrew going early as well. The Lakers face a true test on the road in Utah and could face adversity if they're not able to match the intensity of the home team and the home crowd.

The Lakers need to improve defensively and limit the Jazz to one shot per possession. This will take the crowd out of the game and play to the Lakers strength. The Lakers need to play a complete game and work to get the ball inside to their big men.

Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol have a size advantage, the Jazz don't have a shot-blocker so the Lakers need to attack the rim. The Lakers need to turn it up a notch and focus on playing hard for 60 minutes and putting together their best game.

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Lakers vs. Jazz: Lakers Beat the Jazz 119-109 to take a 2-0 series lead

The Lakers came out on fire in Game 2 and put on an excellent performance in the 1st quarter. Everything was going well from the start for Los Angeles as the Lakers shot 86-percent from the field on 18-21 shooting which including going 4-of-5 from behind the arc.

NBA basketball is a game of runs and the Lakers had more scoring runs than the Jazz. The Lakers used their size inside to their advantage with Pau Gasol & Andrew Bynum doing the damage early. The second unit entered the game toward the end of the 2nd quarter and maintained the lead.

The Jazz didn’t go away and kept the game close throughout. Despite the hot start by the Lakers the Utah shot 56-percent from the field and ending the 1st half on a 9-0 run to cut their deficit to 11 points. The score at the half was 66-55 Lakers.

The Lakers were able to maintain that lead through the 3rd quarter but things got very interesting in the 4th quarter. The Lakers started the quarter off with 4 fouls which immediately put them in the penalty and sent the Jazz to the charity stripe.

The Jazz continued to hang around as they had all game but in the quarter were able to cut the lead down to size, all the way down to six points. That was when Kobe Bryant took over to close the show and lead Los Angeles to a 2-0 series lead.

Deron Williams, Utah’s most dangerous player; was outstanding again scoring a career playoff high of 35 points. He is one of the best point guards in the league as evidenced by the fact that he either scored or set a teammate up to score for the second straight game.

The Lakers were able to hold serve on their home court. Their were positives and negatives for the team, on a positive note the Lakers shot 60-percent from the field, had 7 players in double-figures, have won 12 of their last 13 playoff games and have beaten the Jazz 11 consecutive times in Los Angeles.

A negative note would have to be the Lakers have a total of 36 turnovers in the first two games of the series, allowed Utah to shoot 49-percent from the field. This series shifts to Salt Lake City for the next three games and the Jazz have been outstanding at home.

The Lakers have owned the Jazz in Los Angeles but that hasn’t been the case in Salt Lake City. The Lakers will have to play better defense and do a better job of taking care of the ball or this series can easily stretch longer than the Lakers want. Game Three will be Thursday Night April 23rd on TNT.