I didn’t write any Game Three notes, mostly out of laziness to be honest, but also because not much needs to be said about that game. The Jazz were supposed to win, I expected them to win, and they won.
Utah fell apart a little in the fourth quarter, and gave the Lakers confidence by letting them creep back into the game, but there’s no reason a team this good shouldn’t have won a desperately-needed game on their home floor. Moving on, nothing to see here…
-Utah is a tough, tough place to play basketball for an opposing team. You can tell a gym and its crowd are loud when ABC has no choice but to turn the volume on its broadcast way down following each basket by the home team.
(Not that you need to be reminded of the value of homecourt advantage, but it’s worth noting that prior to Game Four, home teams were 11-0 in the second round of the postseason.)
-Should Ronny Turiaf have been thrown out of the game for his takedown of Ronnie Price? I don’t know. It was clearly after the whistle, sure, and it looked bad (we got a bleeder!), but the way calls have been made in this postseason, who can tell anymore?
(It’s no longer possible to properly determine the difference between a good, hard Playoff foul, and one that can be deemed an act of violence. Jason Kidd was deservedly thrown out for his blatant attack on Jannero Pargo; whenever a Wizard got near LeBron in their series, however, they were practically jailed, to the endless frustration of anyone not rooting for the Cavs.)
-David Stern and his people are so clearly petrified with the idea of the League dissolving back to what it was during those ugly Knicks/Heat wars from the mid-to-late ‘90s, and while no one wants to see that again, we also don’t want the natural physicality of the game (and the resulting intimidation factor) to be taken away either.
-Hubie Brown is so knowledgeable, such a good communicator, and so exceedingly competent at his job, that I feel like paying basketball camp fees every time I listen to his brilliant analysis. Tell me where to send the check, coach!
-There’s something fitting about the fact that the cast from High School Musical were the featured “celebs” in Utah on Sunday.
(Uh, Mike Tirico, please keep in mind that no grown man should be that excited to meet the kids from that show. That’s just creepy, dude.)
-Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol will not, for as long as they live, be considered as defensive stoppers. However, the job they did on Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur – who combined for a ghastly 5 points in the first half – in the first half is more than admirable.
-Now, I don’t doubt that Kobe is hurt, but it’s interesting that he only seems to notice the pain when playing defense. Offensively, he still looks like the universe’s greatest player; on the other end of the floor, he grimaces and winces like an old man with a chronically bad back.
-Great halftime feature on DJ Mbenga, whose hard knock life should put to shame any other NBA player’s story.
(Oh, what’s that, Allen Iverson? Your family was so poor that sewage used to seep into your living room as a kid? Well, I escaped jail when I was a teenager, where I was scheduled to be EXECUTED! Not only that, but my teammate Kobe Bryant doesn’t seem to know my name, and simply refers to me as “Congo”.)
-Deron Williams is a flat-out stud. He may not be on Chris Paul’s level – and if you can find someone who is, I’d love to hear about him – but he’s pretty damn good.
-With an absolutely en fuego Bryant in the third quarter, and the Lakers threatening to take the lead, Derek Fisher had no numbers on the break off an Odom steal, and elected to launch an inexplicable three. A patently absurd basketball decision. I thought he was a veteran?
-Speaking of absurd decisions, I would love to hear Phil Jackson’s rationale as to why he refused to call a timeout at the start of the fourth quarter when the Jazz went nuts, and nearly ended the game right then and there.
(I mean, that’s fine and well during the regular season, when you still have time to work through things and can afford to drop a game here and there just to prove a point to your team, but you can’t afford to play these stupid mind games in the postseason.
Call the timeout, Phil. Stop the bleeding. I know it’s a pain in the butt to have to get up from your chair, but I’m begging you here.)
-How about that Ronnie Price block on Luke Walton? Incredible. It wasn’t quite as good as Tayshaun Prince’s now-classic (and endlessly replayed) block on Reggie Miller from a few years ago, but it’s definitely one of the top 5 highlights of these Playoffs so far.
(And hey Luke, thanks for taking your sweet time on the break. I know you’re not athletic in the slightest, but that was a mind-bogglingly slow layup attempt. You, my friend, absolutely deserved what happened to you.)
-Derek Fisher was unbelievable down the stretch in the fourth quarter, not only with the bombs he kept swishing, but also the lock-down defense he played on Deron Williams. Just a superb performance at a critical time.
(Lamar Odom was also huge at crunch time, but I’d be lying if I said that I expected Odom to send a Playoff game to overtime.)
-Kobe is obviously hurt, but he got away with murder when the refs called a foul on Kirilenko after Bryant shoved a forearm into his chest and sent him flying.
(After the back pain became unbearable, and Kobe went down on the floor to collect himself, leading to a Laker timeout, ABC’s cameras caught Bryant on the bench muttering expletives to get himself going. Said expletives included the word motherfu***r, which was just Kobe’s special way of celebrating Mother’s Day.)
-With an injured Kobe, and the team defense a total mess, the Lakers had no business whatsoever making the game as close (and winnable) as it was. But the Jazz once again let them back into it. They better address this issue before stepping on the plane and traveling back to L.A. for Game Five.
-In games 3 and 4, the Utah Jazz finally began to look like they belonged in the series. In the first two games, no one could’ve made this claim. Guys are now playing with undeniable swag – especially Deron Williams – and they’re starting to believe they can beat the Lakers.
-Of course, playing away from the friendly confines of the EnergySolutions Arena in a pivotal Playoff game will be an entirely different animal from anything we (and they) have seen so far. The Lakers have no reason not feel confident going back to their home gym.
Game Five on Wednesday night promises to be a war. I can’t wait.