By John Carroll, Scouts Inc.
The Utah Jazz have had a tough time winning playoff games at the Staples Center. If they are going to win this series they are going to have to beat the Lakers on their home court. Games 1 and 2 have been eerily similar. The Lakers controlled the game throughout the first three quarters, then the Jazz made a push in the fourth quarter and made it close, then the Lakers responded and won.
There were two sequences in Tuesday night's game that spell out the differences between these two teams. With the Lakers up 101-94 with four minutes to play Derek Fisher missed two free throws, Pau Gasol got the offensive rebound and fed Ron Artest who missed a shot, Lamar Odom got the offensive rebound, Ron Artest missed another shot and then got the offensive rebound and stuck it back in the basket. The height and length of the Lakers bothered the Jazz all night. Also late in the game, Deron Williams got to the rim at will only to have two point-blank shots swatted away at the last second. The Lakers have so much length with Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Odom that it has had a drastic effect on this game at both ends of the floor.
The trio of Gasol, Bynum and Odom combined in Game 2 for 51 points, 44 rebounds, and 9 blocks. These three players shot 18-for-24 (75 percent) from the field. Their size and length are the biggest difference between these two teams in this series. The Lakers score in the paint at point-blank range, while the Jazz run their offense, get great looks but have a hard time finishing around the basket.
Game 3 Adjustments
The Lakers know exactly where the ball needs to go and they will continue to get it inside. They dominated the Jazz by getting deep post position and scoring not just in the paint but right in front of the rim.
Gasol and Bynum have been terrific for the Lakers. They have a terrific size and length advantage and they are utilizing it to help their team win. Utah on the other hand must do something to combat this advantage. They cannot let the Lakers get shots at the rim. The Lakers are way too efficient and their field goal percentage offense shows. The Jazz must fight back in two ways. They must first try to stop the Lakers from getting such deep post position. They must be much more physical and push Gasol and Bynum out off the blocks. Secondly they must come immediately and double the post. They were effective at times in Game 2 but they must be better. They must dig and trap the post and give up the perimeter 3-point shot if necessary.
The Lakers need to take much better care of the ball. They had 20 turnovers in Game 2 and that is way too many. The Jazz were very aggressive attacking the ball to start the game. They got their hands on balls, got deflections and ended the game with 10 steals. The turnover problem did not cost the Lakers in this game but they need to take better care of the rock in Utah.
The Jazz should come off Artest the rest of the series when the ball goes to either the post players (Gasol and Bynum) and tease him into firing shots up at the basket. Make him into a perimeter shooter. He took 17 shots in Game 2 and only made 7 (41 percent). In addition he was 1-for-7 from the 3-point arc.
Artest fancies himself as a perimeter shooter even though he is not. This is one of the best chances the Jazz have of doubling and digging the ball out of the post. Artest can beat you with offensive rebounds on hard dives to the rim but I think the Jazz need to take their chances.
Utah has to find a way to finish around the rim and make shots. In Game 2 they were 38-for-96 (40 percent) from the field. They run patterned offensive sets with good ball and player movement. Their crisp passing and ball movement leads to good looks and high percentage shots. However against L.A. with its length and size, it leads to blocked shots and missed opportunities. The Lakers had 13 blocks in Game 2. Those blocks caused the Jazz to rush and hurry shots, some are altered because of the length and nothing at the rim is easy.
Paul Millsap, 10-for-17 (59 percent) from the field, was the only member of the Jazz who got good looks in the paint. Williams, Carlos Boozer, Kyrylo Fesenko, C.J. Miles, and Wes Matthews all struggled to finish in the paint.
Rebounding is a big factor in this series for both teams. The Jazz grabbed 40 rebounds Tuesday night while the Lakers got 58. This is another area where the size and length of Bynum, Gasol, and Odom give the Lakers a big advantage. Both teams need to do a much better job of rebounding the ball on the defensive end of the floor. The Jazz grabbed 19 offensive rebounds with Boozer grabbing 4 and Millsap 8. Meanwhile the Lakers worked hard on the offensive glass with Artest and Gasol having 5 apiece, and Bynum and Odom having 4 apiece.
The Jazz need to win Game 3 in order to get back in this series. Jerry Sloan has said that to play in the NBA or in the playoffs you must be nasty. For the Jazz to win Game 3 they must be nastier, tougher and meaner.
Prediction: Jazz win Game 3