Lakers/Jazz Game 5 Recap
Winds of change are about to hit the Jazz.
And so it was that the Jazz ended up fighting for their lives clearly over-matched and on hostile ground. In the first quarter, I thought the Jazz might actually have a chance to take this one, or at least get the game to go down to the wire. This was mainly because of Jerry Sloan’s decision to start Andrei Kirilenko, who’s the Jazz’s only shot-blocker on a team that’s been getting killed inside all series. Makes sense on paper. But what the true genius of the move ended up being was giving Kobe a longer defender to deal with.
Kirilenko-on-Kobe is like the dark mirror of the similarly effective but ultimately quixotic ploy of putting Tracy McGrady on Dirk Nowitzki in the first round a few years back-with Dirk, we assumed as a big man he was more comfortable going over smaller guys than around big ones, and with Kobe we’ve assumed as a guard he’d rather blow by guys, but I think he’s more comfortable shooting over guys at this stage of his career. We saw this when he absolutely rained sulfur on poor Ronnie Brewer in game 4, even though he stayed in front of him the entire game, and he pretty much goes to the post-up game instantly when he’s got a guard checking him now.
In the first quarter, with AK-47 checking him almost the entire time, Kobe only goes 1-3 from the floor and can’t seem to get into a groove. Meanwhile, the Jazz are running their flex beautifully, keeping the floor stretched, and hitting their elbow jumpers. At the end of the quarter, the score is tied. That’s a really bad omen for the Jazz.
Carlos Boozer already seems more concerned with thinking of how he’s going to top his previous free-agency stint than he is in this game. Right now I have him going from somewhere from “sign tender offer with the Thunder, give verbal promise he’ll sign an extension with them, and then bolt for NYC after spending the season jacking up 25 shots a game and averaging a 26/17″ to “set up a meeting with an owner, call in a fake bomb threat, and change the numbers on the contract when he flees the building.”
Reggie Miller and Marv Albert are talking about how Ronnie Brewer’s poor shot is because he lacks confidence in it. I’m pretty sure it’s more because he can’t bend his elbow properly, but that’s just me. (I remembered that it was an injury that caused that, which according to Wikipedia was a “childhood water slide injury.” I would have lost that bet.) Reggie, just because you made more threes than anyone in history with your elbow flying out doesn’t mean that anyone with a bad shooting stroke can be a good shooter.
Well, Jerry Sloan just took out Brewer and AK-47, leaving C.J. Miles on an island on Kobe. Kobe looks around to make sure that nobody’s pulling a prank on him, then immediately starts backing Miles down or bullying past him to get to the line. This is where the Jazz fell behind, and they never really got back into it.
I have no idea why Sasha Vujacic keeps driving. When he drives the middle, he jacks up an indiscriminate in-between jumper. When he goes baseline, he throws the ball to nobody in particular. These are the only two outcomes. He does not lack for confidence, though. I’m pretty sure he’s the only bench player who makes fans of his team wince when he makes his first shot.
Deron Williams has absolutely put Fisher and even Kobe on skates a few times, but other than that he doesn’t seem all that apt to take the game over. It’s not looking good for the Jazz.
Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza are absolutely everywhere. When they’re hitting their threes, like they were tonight, what more do you want out of a basketball player? They are wreaking havoc out there.
Kobe ends the half by snatching up a loose ball under the basket and making a fadeaway as he’s falling down with the shot clock buzzing. Really not a good sign for the Jazz.
As the half ends, I feel like the Jazz executed their game plan a lot better than the Lakers did. And they’re down 13. The Lakers are a half away from some rest.
The Jazz and Lakers are more or less trading baskets with the Lakers in the third, which is not what the Jazz want to happen.
Kobe rips in a three to start the fourth. Lakers up 19, it feels over. It’s not like the Lakers have lost focus with a big lead at any point in this series.
…And here come the Jazz! Spurred on by Paul Milsap and Ronnie Price, both playing with a “our contracts end in 12 minutes” kind of tenacity, start spurring a Jazz run. Milsap is snatching offensive boards. Price is flying to the hole. Price sets Korver up for a three, and all of a sudden it’s a six point lead with three minutes to play!
While all of this happened, Carlos Boozer sat on the bench with a “I wonder if I can get Kari Ferrell as my agent this off-season?” look on his face. Apparently she’s a Jazz fan!
And Utah just can’t get over the hump. Ronnie Price misses a layup. Deron Misses a fast-break layup. Price misses another layup. Milsap misses a layup. Odom gets a fast-break dunk to end the Laker drought, Sloan gets asked to leave the building, and it’s all over but the Randy Newman and a hilarious Ronnie Price-Derek Fisher mini-battle.
Kobe ends up getting 31 on 21 shots even though I thought he was well defended; the AK-47 strategy took away the midrange game he murdered the Jazz with in game 4 (Kobe was 3-9 from midrange tonight, including the aforementioned falling, broken-play circus shot), but Kobe got his with some open catch-and shoot threes, getting out in transition, and going to the post and drawing fouls whenever he got a smaller man in a switch or 4-minute long ritual sacrifice of Ronnie Brewer. And I still think this game is as close as anyone’s come to a blueprint on how to guard him. Kobe might have lost a half-step of explosiveness, but he’s still as relentless as ever and his basketball IQ is higher. He’s like a chess match at this point of his career. If the Rockets can close out the Blazers, I am REALLY looking forward to Kobe-Battier.
And so the Jazz’s injury-plagued season comes to a close, another nucleus that got them just close enough to taste it to be broken up. With Deron and Sloan, they’ll always be in the hunt, but once again they’re forced to try and find an answer for how to get their team over that last hump. Until next time, campers.