Lakers/Jazz Game 3 Recap
by Myles Brown
The Lakeshow suffered their first defeat of the postseason Thursday night and while some may consider it a bump in the road to the promised land, there are still questions of whether opponents will give L.A hell due to their much maligned character flaws. If the Lakers are to emerge victorious from this series or any other, they’ll need to repent of their wicked ways and return to a righteous path. Hopefully, their trip to Utah provided a revelation. Even though Mormons and the LDS church have their own controversial interpretations of the Bible and the Seven Deadly Sins aren’t overtly mentioned anywhere in the good book, I decided to go with this format anyway…
“It’s just a challenge, being in a tough atmosphere where everyone’s pulling against you. It’s relaxing. It’s fun. You know, the more they boo me, the more they heckle me, the more they relax me and the more I play better. You would think they would know that by now.”
Historically speaking, Kobe’s comments ring true, but in this case pride did cometh before the fall. Now it wasn’t an instance of pride that he continued to shoot his way into nineteen missed shots, that was merely confidence. 24 shots his hardly a contemptible number for a player of his caliber and it’s been all but established as fact that no matter how many times he’s missed, his next attempt has an even chance of finding the mark.
No, the L.A.’s sin of pride was in their assumption that they wouldn’t have to double their effort of the previous two contests. They failed to match Utah’s intensity to start the game and didn’t muster the requisite energy to hold off another late run by the Jazz. As often as I disagree with Charles Barkley, it’s tough to dispute his claim that scoring is simply too easy for the Lakers and they take it for granted. So when things go wrong for this team and Kobe can’t bail them out, it seems as though they have no recourse other than to keep chucking. Sometimes that will work, but in this case it didn’t. This is not the normal eight seed they’re facing here and they’ll have to buckle down and focus on other facets of the game to compensate for their poor shooting.
Of course the Devil’s advocate would contest that Kobe shot 5-24, the team shot 36%, and Bynum played only 7 minutes with two shots and they still only lost by two points. Will this game give them some humility or only swell their pride? If it is the latter, then perhaps getting slapped again in game two will help them reconsider.
“That was a foul!”
No. No, it wasn’t. Even if it were, bitching about it rarely does anything but harden the referee’s stance towards you. Just keep playing. This was a do or die game against a physical team that has one of the league’s best home records. To expect anything but their best shot and the referees to allow hard nosed play is naïve. And it should be noted that for all the complaints about fouls the Jazz shot a whopping two more free throws than the Lakers (28-26). If anything is to be lamented, it’s that L.A missed almost half of theirs (16-26 for 61.5%)
So stop being greedy.
“I be strokin!”
Kobe will probably receive the brunt of the blame for his teams poor shooting and probably with good reason. He’s capable more than any of his teammates-and anyone in the league for that matter-of creating his own shot and getting good looks at the basket. However, it would be shortsighted to solely blame him and make the simple assertion that he should’ve attacked the basket. Jazz defenders showed and doubled Kobe hard on pick n’ rolls or penetration and forced him into difficult positions. This is in addition to Ronnie Brewer playing excellent defense by refusing to go for pump fakes, moving his feet well and keeping a hand in Bryant’s face. At times Utah paid for their defensive schemes, especially late when Kobe found Pau for easy dunks, but ultimately it worked.
The fact of the matter is that the entire team falls in love with their jumpshots and probably with good reason. They’re all good shooters. But that still shouldn’t come at the expense of proper balance and ball movement, something Phil Jackson had to stress to his players in the second half. Sasha, Shannon and Fisher all jacked up twenty footers early in the shot clock on numerous occasions last night. This is without a doubt, the leagues best offense. So they should play like it. Move the ball and get a better shot.
“Foul?! Foul aint no country I ever heard of! Do they speak English in Foul?! Say foul again! I dare you! I double dare you muthaf*cka! Say foul one more G*ddamn time!”
Andrew Bynum played an awful game. Some of the fouls he picked up were questionable and others were deserved. Either way he ended up in Phil Jackson’s doghouse. However last night was an instance where I would go with the wisdom of my high school coach over a nine time NBA Champion. Fuck up or not, Andrew Bynum is still a much needed defensive presence and he only had five fouls. No one gets to take any fouls they save home with them. So teaching him a lesson, punishing him, or whatever else it may have been may also have cost them a win.
Carlos Boozer’s dunk over Pau and Deron Williams game winner might have gone differently if Bynum was in the middle to contest those shots.
The entire team played particularly lazy defense. There was no recognition a poor rotations that led to easy layups and wide open three pointers. Everyone chased the ball instead of watching the sets and there were countless instances of primary and help defenders chasing the ball only to stare in slack jawed amazement at a pass that found an unhindered opponent cutting to the basket.
An equally troubling problem was Pau Gasol. As quickly as he shed his reputation for soft play it crept back up on him last night. Boozer noted with emphasis in his post game interview that he was intent on going right at Gasol on his last possession and it was clear he thought he could get the best of a longer, taller and quicker player. Boozer and his backup bullied the Barcelonan into several ‘weenie shots’. Pau his the size, moves and foot speed to beat both of them to the basket, but instead of establishing position and powering his way through their physicality, he settled for several off balance shots and failed to convert.
Worse yet, he was practically nonexistent on the boards. He was outhustled to loose balls and couldn’t secure rebounds even when he had position as the ball was wrestled from his hands. The Lakers may have shot poorly, but things were certainly compounded by their being beat to the backboard. In Game One the Lakers enjoyed a 46-38 advantage in rebounds and were tied with the Jazz at 30 in Game Two. Last night they lost the battle-and the game-55-40. Surely some of that can be attributed to Bynum’s absence, but Gasol had to pick up more of that slack and he didn’t.
“Get yo hand outta my pocket!”
As much as the Lakers are presumed to be measuring themselves against the Cavaliers as they cruise towards their collision course, it should be noted that again that the Jazz are not the typical eighth seed. But the Lakers shouldn’t be envious of Cleveland or wishing they were facing Dallas, New Orleans or any other first round opponent they’d have an easier time with. Instead they should be grateful they’re being faced with immediate challenges that will prepare them for subsequent rounds. Deron Williams prepares them for another big lead guard in Chauncey Billups or even Brandon Roy. Boozer and Milsaps bruising will be revisited in future matchups against the Blazers, Rockets or Nuggets.
The Lakers can either look at the Jazz as a team that could wear them down or a team that will make them stronger. Time will tell which one they decide on.