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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Lakers/Jazz Second Round Preview: L.A. Confidential

Posted by TADOne

The cat is out of the bag. It has basically been the worst kept secret in the NBA for the last 3 weeks, even though some were still holding out hope for an underdog. Kobe Bryant is the NBA MVP this season for the first time in his career. It is quite the feat for Mr. Bryant, considering how his offseason cat-and-mouse game played out in the media with the Lakers. Simply put, very few expected the Lakers to contend for a championship, with or without Bryant, with all of the turmoil surrounding the team from the start of the preseason. Regardless of the fact that while I type this Mr. Stern has not come out publicly yet announcing Kobe as MVP, I am willing to go out on a limb. I’m quite the gambler, huh?

While Kobe didn’t earn the MVP against one particular club this season, it certainly could be said that he had some of his best games against the Utah Jazz this season, his Lakers second round opponent. Bryant averaged 29.8 ppg on 56 percent shooting against the Jazz, leading his Lakers to 3 out of 4 wins against the Jazz. He was the model of efficiency.

Efficient is a nice place to start on this series, as the Jazz and Lakers ranked 2nd and 3rd in offensive efficiency this season respectively. Breaking down the meaning, it basically is saying that both the Jazz and Lakers were in the top 3 in points per possession during the season, ranking only behind Phoenix. Both teams know how to move the ball and find the open man, and this series should be quite the joy to watch.

Speaking of efficient, I will break down the series the same way. Follow me now….

The Lakers will win if….Kobe Bryant lives up to his MVP billing. Bryant is playing at the top of his game, and also has learned to trust his teammates. He also has the best set of teammates he has had in the Lakers post Shaq era. If the Lakers can continue their play from the first round series against Denver, were they averaged 115 points and only 11 turnovers, they will be coasting into the Western Conference Finals on a roll.

The Jazz will win if….they can win a game in LA. The Jazz had the best home record this season in the league, and at times looked inept on the road. If Ronnie Brewer and Andrei Kirilenko can slow Bryant and turn him into a jump shooter while slowing the Lakers fast break, they can keep it close. Jazz PG Deron Williams needs to dominate his matchup against Lakers PG Derek Fisher and control the tempo and not turn the ball over. Sounds simple enough, huh?

X-Factor matchup: Statistically, The Lakers Pau Gasol and Carlos Boozer of the Jazz had comparable seasons. Looking at this on paper, they should cancel each other out. However, both players have completely different games and how they go about getting their numbers. Look for Boozer to bang down low and try to throw the slender Gasol off his game, and then work the pick-and-roll with Williams. On the flip side, look for Pau to be utilized in the high post in the Lakers triangle offense and lure Boozer away from the paint where he is out of his comfort zone, and either find cutting teammates or get in a groove shooting an almost money 18 foot jumper.

Coaches: Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is a former Coach of the Year and is also the longest tenured coach in any of the major sporting leagues, not just the NBA. The man definitely has the pulse of his team. While Sloan is a great coach, the Lakers Phil Jackson is legendary, arguably the greatest coach ever in the history of the league. Look for both coaches to have a chess match throughout the series, but for Jackson to be the first to put Sloan into a Checkmate.

Final thoughts: While the Jazz are not as combustible as the Lakers first round opponent Denver, the have a Jekyll and Hyde type play away from the Energy Solutions Arena. MVP Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to the best record in the West and home court advantage, which will serve them well in this series.

The Mormons need to start praying now for the Jazz.

Prediction: Lakers in 6


Eboy said...

Drink that Kool-Aid, son. The Lakers played well yesterday, got a nice win and Kobe, on a Sunday on national TV got 25 free throws. We'll see just how strong dude is when Boozer isn't limited due to foul trouble and Williams readjusts and plays way better. Kobe was real good and they won a close game that came down to the last two minutes. The Jazz's two best players struggled and they stayed with them. Doesn't bode well for the Lake Show.

TADOne said...

It's called being objective, E. Honestly, do you think the Jazz can win? I sure don't.

Eboy said...

Win what? A game? Two? Three? If the Jazz don't pull it to six or win it in 7, I'd be surprised.

TADOne said...

Hence my prediction, my good man.

TADOne said...

I'm patting myself on the back because I NAILED this prediction. I am Nastradamus!