Lakers – Jazz Running Diary: Game 1

Staples CenterRead about the Lakers vs. Jazz game as it unfolds. As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Lakers Playoff Central
All you need to know about the 65-win Lakers heading into the playoffs can be found by clicking HERE.

Inactives
Lakers: D.J. Mbenga, Sun Yue
Jazz: Mehmet Okur*, Kosta Koufos, Morris Almond
*Okur strained his hamstring in last Monday’s victory over the L.A. Clippers and did not play in the second half or in the regular season finale against the Lakers.

Kobe BryantStarters
Lakers Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver*, Carlos Boozer and Jarron Collins
*Matt Harping started Tuesday’s regular season finale against the Lakers. Korver’s inclusion is interesting as Ariza will need to do as good a job as Sasha Vujacic in chasing the three-point shooting specialist around.

Phil Jackson Pregame
Jackson spent much of his seven-minute pregame media session talking about his championship rings, as this is the first playoff round he’s not worn the 2002 ring since 2003. Though he revealed that there’s little that hasn’t already been covered regarding the Jazz, he spoke briefly on the matchup as well. Click HERE for the audio.

Pau GasolFirst Quarter
11:45 Bryant’s pass intended for Ariza was picked off by Williams, who pushed the ball and found Boozer cutting to the hoop for the game’s first points. Bynum then missed a baby hook, and Williams got to the rim to put Utah up 4-0.

10:40 As Gasol answered with a baby hook shot over Boozer, we see L.A.’s game plan pretty clearly – pound the rock inside. L.A.’s next possession saw Ariza hit an open three, and the fact that he hesitated not a second was a good sign. Fisher’s second foul on Williams brought Shannon Brown off the bench very early, but moments later Ariza nailed another triple to make it 8-6 Lakers.

7:05 Ariza continued a fantastic personal start by using Gasol’s steal to streak ahead of the pack for a one-handed dunk to get to eight points to see L.A. take a 12-8 lead.

6:05 As the Jazz continued to focus on Bryant, Kobe found Brown for another role player triple, then swatted Williams in the lane and got the ball to Brown in the open court. Fatman Sr. in turn found a streaking Gasol for a dunk, and L.A. found themselves up 17-10 before the Jazz took a timeout.

A few things stood out about the first six minutes, most notably that as Utah paid so much attention to Bryant, he complied by being the only Laker not to take a shot in the first six minutes while racking up four assists. Meanwhile, Lamar Odom was poised to come off the bench in a few minutes. Impressive start.

4:55 Ariza with 10 points already? Gasol found him with a beautiful look for a wide open two-handed dunk. Utah did manage to counter with two straight hoops, one by Williams and the other set up by the outstanding point guard (six points, four assists).

3:20 Gasol continued to make Boozer look like a middle schooler just learning the defensive slide with a left-handed hook, and then sprinted ahead in transition once again to finish a Brown setup after Fatman Sr. swiped the ball away from Williams. Lakers 23, Jazz 15.

1:55 With a lineup of Brown, Vujacic, Bryant, Odom and Gasol, Bryant immediately cut right through the lane for a layup, and Vujacic earned an offensive foul on Boozer by adeptly staying ahead of the screen. That’s one of Sasha’s strengths of which Jackson’s quite fond.

0:53.0 “Two for two from downtown for Shannon Brown!” That was ABC’s Mike Breen telling the story of another Brown triple. How about this line from Brown in his first meaningful playoff minutes: Six points on 2-of-2 shooting (both threes), two assists and a steal.

0:00.9 A emphatic opening to L.A.’s playoff run concluded with Bryant’s technical free throw make and 1-of-2 from Odom to give L.A. a 30-19 lead after one. Gasol had rebounded a Jazz miss and outletted to Vujacic, who found Odom slicing to the hole as Williams attempted to draw a charge. But if that was a charge, Lakers.com doesn’t support a CT reality show. Sloan didn’t like the call, earning his tech.

Stat of the Quarter: L.A. shot 70.6 percent from the field on 12-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-6 from three (two each from Ariza and Brown).

Andrew BynumSecond Quarter
11:15 Odom’s a box score filler when he’s on the floor, as witnessed by an early and-1 to get him to four points in five minute with a board and a blocked shot.

10:05 Consecutive excellent defensive plays from the Lakers resulted in consecutive hoops, as Farmar swatted Brevin Knight and Walton picked off a pass in the lane before feeding Odom in the open court for a lefty tomahawk.

9:11 Another powerful one-handed slam from Odom courtesy of Farmar’s dish in transition pushed the lead to 16 points. L.A. looking fierce, shooting 76.2 percent and doing it easily. Speculation was that the Lakers had an extra gear they were saving for the playoffs, and we’ve certainly seen it in this game’s first 15 minutes. P.S. – Farmar’s foot looks just fine.

8:04 Jackson wasn’t interested in any counter runs from the Jazz, so when Boozer and Williams scored four quick points (total), Bryant and Fish checked back in.

6:58 After opening up on conscious, L.A. had a three-minute dry spell until Odom’s free throw made it 40-29. If you checked out our first round series preview, you know that the Lakers had an edge at every position except point guard, including the bench. That’s what we saw early, as Williams was very effective (eight points, seven assists, accounting for basically all of Utah’s offense) while L.A. took charge everywhere else.

4:43 I’d just asked Ty Nowell when Fisher would make his presence felt, and of course, Fish rubbed it in my face with a jumper and a savvy acting play as he drew a Millsap foul and hit the ensuing free throws. Speaking of acting, here’s a celeb check: Kanye West, Eddie Murphy, Dustin Hoffman, Jeremy Piven, Zach Effron and of course Jack in the house. L.A. would then take a 16-point lead on Bryant’s jumper.

3:06 Bryant continued to assert himself by sticking yet another jumper out of a timeout, then nailing from the baseline to complete a personal nine-point scoring streak. He was up to 12 and the Lakers led by 17.

1:15 Make it 19. Odom, who’s told us about how he could be an NFL QB, offered some evidence by firing a one-hander in traffic to Ariza, who was running a slant. Ariza missed a contested layup, but Brown was there for the offensive board and subsequent feed to Ariza for a dunk.

0:24.0 Joining the party was Walton, who nailed a wide open three after Bryant dished out of a triple team in the lane for his fifth assist. The triple put L.A. up 62-40, saw the Lakers hitting 65.7 percent of their shots and capped a dominant first half performance.

Kobe PauThird Quarter
That Lakers defense in the first half, by the way, held Utah to 35.4 percent shooting, which led to some of L.A.’s shooting success with easy buckets in transition.

11:43 The defense was similarly strong on the opening possession of the second half, as Collins was forced to take a contested jumper as the shot clock dwindled. It clearly wasn’t the kind of shot Utah wants out of its offense, and he missed.

10:10 Korver’s first open three of the game, sure enough, was a swish, and Utah followed with a Boozer jumper to give the Jazz the quarter’s first seven points to make it a 15-point game.

9:02 Fisher charged into the lane (turnover) and Collins drew Bynum’s third foul at the other end to continue the charge until Bynum finally got the Lakers on the board with 1-of-2 free throws.

7:24 As Bryant drew a Brewer foul on the baseline, Lakers fans might remember that such a play is extremely frustrating for an opponent. You think you’re playing good defense, and giving your team a chance to continue its offensive run, but a guy like Kobe has the ability to find a way to score on you no matter what you do. Deflating. The Jazz answered with a Boozer hoop, but Ariza continued his excellent game with an and-1 from Fisher that got him to 15 points and put L.A. up 16.

4:46 The refs were calling more fouls than Tim Duncan to start the third, capped by a weak call on Ariza when Ronnie Brewer leaned his elbow and body into the UCLA product. The resulting two free throws cut L.A.’s 22-point halftime lead in half to 11, outscoring the Lakers 19-8 to open the quarter.

3:24 The lead finally fell below 10 when Boozer’s jumper made it 72-63, though Gasol responded immediately with a bank shot, then a steal that led to a “REVERSE SLAM!” (Mike Breen) from Ariza, who ran right past Boozer and finished with authority on the opposite side of the rim. That gave him 17 points, a mark he hadn’t hit since March 21 in Chicago (his season high, 26, came March 15 vs. Dallas).

1:48 I think Deron Williams is a top-10 NBA player, and should definitely be on the All-NBA second team. To get Harpring a layup, he dissected L.A.’s defense for a good 17 seconds before finally dumping off, and had 14 assists in 32 minutes despite making only 3-of-10 shots for eight points.

1:06 Does Shannon Brown ever miss? His third three-point make in as many attempts put L.A. up 13.

0:37.0 Josh Powell, cold off the bench, nonetheless stepped in for Gasol and immediately nailed a 17-foot jumper from the baseline. After helping to force Brewer out of bounds for a turnover at the other end, Powell drew Brewer’s foul back on offense and made both free throws. Basically, if Powell were to play 48 minutes at this pace, he’d score 192 points.

0:02.7 Continuing a strong game for a guy that disappeared in last year’s playoff series vs. the Lakers, Boozer dunked with two hands to get to a game high 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting, capping a really solid Jazz quarter that chipped 11 points off L.A.’s halftime lead. Still, the Lakers led 86-73 heading into the final quarter, and the Jazz had used a considerable amount of energy to make it a ball game again.
Ariza
Fourth Quarter
11:20 Odom’s putback of a Bynum miss from in close made it a 15-point game, preceding Bynum’s contest of a Millsap contested layup. While it was Bynum’s fifth foul, the fact that L.A.’s giving up no easy layups with ‘Drew on the court is an important mental edge for the Lakers. Plus, it doesn’t hurt as much when you can bring Pau Gasol off your bench.

Clearly, Bynum’s been a little excitable in his playoff opener, as he said he would be throughout the week: Seven points on 2-of-5 shooting, three boards and five fouls, but again, his mere presence is what counts as he gets his feet beneath him.

8:47 Gasol’s bunny in the lane followed back-to-back blocks from Odom and Gasol that showed L.A.’s increased willingness to protect its rim. Even though Millsap eventually stuck in the putback, the contest is a good sign.

6:33 Back in action, Powell immediately scored again, getting his own rebound and sticking it back to put L.A. up 98-84. Six points in two minutes for Peezy. With Kobe back in, let’s see if the Lakers execute a final push here to bury the Jazz.

5:41 Kirilenko’s three again cut L.A.’s lead to nine, but Bryant this time answered with a jumper to get right back into double digits. That 10-point mark is big mentally for both teams, lending added importance to both shots.

4:45 Kobe, again from the perimeter, and the lead was 13. On a less positive note for L.A., Millsap grabbed an offensive board on the next possession, Utah’s 19th of the game to just seven for the Lakers. You have to account for the big discrepancy in field goal percentage (55 to 38), but nonetheless the number’s too high for L.A.’s liking. Williams managed to draw a foul and hit both free throws thanks to the extra chance.

2:35 After Gasol’s sixth foul sent him to the bench and brought Bynum, who had five fouls himself, onto the floor for two minutes, the Jazz scored four quick points to get within 10 at 106-96, but L.A. again had an answer as Bryant stripped Williams and fed Ariza, who drew a foul and made 1-of-2 foul shots. Afterwards, Jackson brought Powell back on the floor to match up with Boozer.

1:46 Lots of whistles tonight. Any dogs in the house? Odom was the apparent culprit for holding Millsap, whose two free throws made it 107-98.

1:26 Let’s let Breen take care of this one: “Oh what a finish from Kobe Bryant, and the foul! Throws it down in the face of Paul Millsap!”

A bit more description of Bryant’s dagger dunk: First Kobe used a hesitation dribble to drive around Korver, and then came the rise and hang that preceded

0:52.1 What a game from Trevor Ariza, who canned another open triple to bury the Jazz even further. Lakers 113, Jazz 98.

Utah would add a bucket, but the Lakers would take game one with a 13-point victory. See you soon in the postgame report.