Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Round 1, Game 2 Post Mortem: Lakers down Jazz in better contested game

I don’t think that this is unexpected at all. And I’m not upset with it – probably because I only watched the last 18 minutes of the game (man, catching up on overflowing DVR recordings can be a chore). I didn’t see any ridiculous calls one way or the other, and the expected unguardability of Kobe caused a variety of guys open for shots . . . again. If anything, I was surprised that guys like Ariza and Brown stayed hot. I didn’t watch every Lakers game this season, but I really did not expect these guys to be shooting it this well.

In the end, though, the Jazz were able to bring the margin (once 20) down to 3 in the 4th quarter before the Lakers made some shots, the ball bounced in a funny way a few times, and their defense and length really stepped up. Utah had to foul, and the final margin looks a lot larger than the game was in the 4th.

Kobe was Kobe, and Deron was Deron. Kobe is getting a lot of support from his team mates, while Deron pretty much has to do it alone. Utah’s wings look very timid right now – and that sucks for Utah. Korver is supposed to be a guy who shoots the ball with confidence – in this game he was missing technical free throws and rushing shots that he hasn’t even taken once all season long while avoiding shooting the ball on designed plays where he is supposed to shoot. Andrei is making an effort not to make mistakes, but at the expense of actually doing anything. (If you play video games, and are familiar with Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. you might agree that AK is a guy who is only useful when he’s not in ‘assistance on’ mode, he’s much better when he’s free and allowed to play a more dangerous game, even if he is at a risk of stalling) Brewer’s defense on Kobe was airtight on some plays, but Kobe just made some crazy shots down the stretch (nothing new), and on the other side of the ball he was getting blocked inside by Gasol and crew. C.J. Miles does not seem to be in this series at all.

Those four guys averaged 43.4 PPG in the regular season. So far in two games they have averaged 34.0 PPG. That’s a margin of 10 points. What was the final margin of last nights game? Oh yeah, 10 points. Not all the blame goes to the wings though . . . it’s just that their output is clearly less than what it should be.

Credit the Lakers defense again.

The Lakers defense hurts everyone, it’s made Millsap into a jump shooter, while earlier in the season he was a guy who could create his own shot in the paint. It’s made Boozer selectively effective on offense – though when he was healthy he was having an All-Star season. Deron Williams was credited with 7 turn overs last night. Of course, this is how the statistic is scored, but it’s not his fault when the guys he passes the ball to can’t catch. More than anything the Jazz are doing, this series seems to be predicated on what the Lakers are allowing. Their length cannot be stated enough . . . from being able to block shots inside (like Deron and Brewer getting stuff by Gasol with under 90 seconds to play in under 24 seconds of action); cut off passing angles and cause deflections – which then become steals.

It’s not like Utah got where they are today, in this season, with defense. They got to the playoffs with offense. And the Lakers are taking the Jazz right out of their comfort zone.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. In two games the Jazz have ended up falling to the Lakers by a combined 23 points. (Yes, lowly Utah on the road) Both times the Jazz were without the services of Mehmet Okur – who (if you look at his game splits) gave the Lakers no end of trouble. He averaged (against amazing LA this season) 21.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 55.56 fg%, 44.4 3pt%, made all of his FT, and still managed 1.5 spg and 1.5 bpg.

Look at that. Utah net was –23. Okur gets 21.5 ppg vs LA. He hasn’t played yet. He’s going to play in Game 3. And Game 3 is at home – where Utah beats the Lakers 70% of the time. LA took care of their business at home, expect the Jazz to put up a very strong fight in attempt to do the same.