Utah is a nice team, they’ve had injuries this year, never got it going, and it appears as though they’ve taken a huge step back from where they were last season. They have a very little shot against a team like the 2008-2009 LA Lakers.
Tonight is game 2 of the series and expect there to be adjustments in both teams’ game plans.
The Lakers did a great job of making Deron (and the rest of the Jazz) miss shots that they usually make – uncontested jumpers or layups in the paint. Utah couldn’t hit the side of a barn in last game. The Lakers length inside is just too much, Paul Millsap is only 6’8 and can usually make up the difference in height with hustle – but not against a front line that all boast over 9’ standing reaches. The Lakers also had the benefit of not needing defend one of the best three point shooters this season (44.6 3pt%, good enough for #6 in the L) due to injury, so they didn’t need to worry about floor spacing at all and could pack it into the paint with impunity. There was no fear of reprisal from the three point line at all because Deron is having an off year from deep, CJ Miles has a finger and wrist injury to his shooting hand and Andrei only makes threes in the 4th quarter of games. The only guy to contest was Kyle Korver, and Ariza had him all bottled up.
The Lakers shut down the Jazz offense. The only adjustments I can see Sloan making to counter this would be to run more isolation plays – which removes the necessary ball movement and player movement that make the Jazz offense so potent. Without Okur (or bereft of 1990’s era Illegal Defense rules) Jerry Sloan’s attack can be nerfed quite a bit. After all, having one of their worst shooting games all season long, playing with an injured starter and without their third best player the Jazz were only able to muster up 100 points on the road on the Lakers homecourt when they were completely healthy and rested. OBVIOUSLY the Lakers have nothing to fear. After all, Deron can be counted on to only make 4 FG the rest of the way, right? GOOOOO LAKERS!
On the other side of the ball the Lakers were firing on all cylinders. Kobe didn’t have to take a lot of shots, and the interior passing to and of the bigmen baffled the Jazz all game long. Utah was having fits inside trying to guard Gasol, Odom, Bynum and crew with Jarron Collins (who is the guy you call on to set up your blackberry email accounts, not to shut down All-Star centers in the paint), Carlos Boozer (who’s defense makes Collins’ defense look like Ben Wallace in comparison) and Paul Millsap. Millsap isn’t a poor defender by any means, but he’s at a terrible disadvantage in any of these matchups, Odom faces him up 18 ft from the basket and can dribble by him, Gasol is just too long and quick inside and Bynum just too big. We’ve all heard the idiom of “going into a gunfight with a knife”. Trying to defend the Lakers bigs with the three guys I listed for the Jazz is like going into a gunfight while in the process of having emergency open heart surgery – there’s just no way for things to end well for you.
The Lakers don’t need to make any adjustments here because the inside attack is predicated on the fact that the Jazz can’t stop it. This allows guys on the outside with very open looks – and if you watched last game you know that guys like Ariza, Brown and crew cannot miss open jumpers ever. It’s impossible. The Lakers will have all their role players make all of their shots. Always. Even Luke Walton. FACT! The only thing that could change this would be if Old Jerry Sloan started to actually play his centers on the other teams’ centers, instead of putting defensively challenged forwards on them. (Why is Harpring even defending PFs at all? ever?) Utah has a pair of young, raw kids who rebound and block shots with little regard for human life. They’ve been able to handle the likes of Shaq and Yao Ming during stretches of this season (when everyone was injured). Jerry has no intention of ever using them to defend the likes of Bynum . . . so Lakers fans have nothing to fear. Pau Gasol will still make class clown type of comments in the post-game press conference, including all the funny faces that we’ve all come to love.
After two games it will be LA 2 – Utah 0
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