Lakers – Jazz Running Diary: Game 2

lakersRead 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.

Game 1: Running Diary and Postgame
Lakers – Jazz Running Diary, April 19, 2009
Lakers 113, Jazz 100: Postgame

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

Lakers: D.J. Mbenga, Sun Yue
Jazz: Mehmet Okur*, Kosta Koufos, Morris Almond
*Okur will miss his second straight playoff game with a strained right hamstring.

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver*, Carlos Boozer and Jarron Collins

Pregame Thoughts
Okur’s continued absence is certainly not a good sign for the Jazz, who really struggled with L.A.’s length – especially defensively – in game one. Click here for a picture of Okur testing the leg before the game.

In other news, the Lakers are hoping to keep Utah off the free throw line, in part by doing a better job on the defensive glass so as not to foul opponents on easy put-back layups. While L.A. would like to keep Deron Williams out of the lane, they realize that point guards around the league (just look at Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo or Chris Paul in the playoffs) can get into the lane no matter how good the on-ball defense is with the current interpretation of the rules.

GasolFirst Quarter
11:40 What’s the best way for Bynum to start his sixth game back from injury and second in the playoffs? A step-through dunk from Kobe would do just fine.

10:36 Ariza, who scored 10 points in Sunday’s first quarter, got all the way to the hoop and finished high off the glass before Gasol’s easy bucket put L.A. up 6-2.

9:11 A lefty hook from Bynum? Pretty stuff from L.A. on offense to start the game, who got a triple from Ariza, who had more space than a baby in first class. Williams managed a triple for the Jazz, who also got two jumpers from Brewer to hang in there.

7:22 L.A. was putting on some kind of offensive clinic, getting shots from wherever they wanted to open up 15-7. It doesn’t hurt to have Gasol, who spun right around Boozer for a two-handed dunk, and Bynum, who had his way in the lane with another close look at the rim.

With the Lakers flying high after a Fisher three-pointer, there was an interesting contrast in benches: Odom, Powell, Farmar, Walton, Vujacic, Morrison and Brown were all standing and clapping, while the Jazz bench was sitting rather silently.

4:50 Andrew Bynum: dominating. You know you’ve played well when Kobe waits for you after the other team calls time out, walks heartily towards you and hits you hard on the head. That’s Bryant’s “Yeah boy!” mode, which rightly rewarded Bynum’s 5-of-5 start that netted 10 points for the Lakers and delivered a 24-14 lead. L.A. made 11-of-13 shots to start the game, otherwise known as 84.6 percent. He also managed a swat of Williams and two rebounds, and had already surpassed his game one total of seven points.

2:42 The Lakers were clearly feeding off a great crowd, which was noticeably more fired up than they were on Sunday as the offensive display continued with threes from Fisher and Bryant and a swished J from Gasol that made it 32-19 L.A. That was a long sentence. Meanwhile, Jack Nicholson stood up for an extended and hearty standing ovation after L.A. posted a “Happy Birthday Jack!” graphic on the jumbotron.

2:20 As Bryant hit a jumper, the Lakers had literally hit their last 12 shots and 15-of-17 for the game. Things as hot as the Lakers in the first quarter: A full helping of Chipotle hot salsa on a burrito (like as much as they put in a chips/salsa combo, which destroyed the roof of my mouth yesterday); the Sahara desert; Heather Locklear (“Melrose Place” years); fire.

0:37.8 Gasol continued an excellent personal quarter by nailing his fourth shot in as many attempts to get to nine points, making him and Bynum a combined 9-of-9. Odom added a nasty dunk that delivered an amazing 18-of-21 quarter (85.7 percent) for 41 points, a season high for a quarter in both percentage and points. Utah, however, also shot well, making 57 percent of their shots including three triples to score 29 points of their own to keep the game within reach.

“We’re still in the ball game, but we need to do a better job of slowing them down,” said Jerry Sloan to TNT’s Craig Sager after the quarter.

BoozerSecond Quarter
11:20 Any question about how the ball’s going into the hoop for the Lakers may have been answered by Odom, who was fouled before throwing a relative line drive directly into the hoop and hitting the FT for a 44-31 lead.

10:44 As Andrei Kirilenko hits two free throws, let me mention that he’s one of the league’s nicest and most interesting players with whom to talk. Right up there with Yao Ming, Jose Calderon and Ryan Gomes. More on that tomorrow.

8:33 Not a great stretch for L.A. to open the second … Utah hit its fourth shot in five attempts, all from bench players, in outplaying L.A.’s bench to get back in the game with the count at 46-39. Paul Millsap was 3-for-3 in the quarter to lead the way as the Lakers defense was conceding far too many open looks for Phil Jackson’s liking.

6:30 The Jazz stayed hot in the quarter, getting a jumper from C.J. Miles to cut L.A.’s lead to six until Walton climbed onto the offensive glass for a putback layup. Shannon Brown then made his presence felt for the first time on a beautiful feed from Bryant (five assists) to nail his first three after missing from the top of the key. With that, the lead was 11 again.

Bigs Shooting Percentage Ridiculous: I mentioned that Gasol and Bynum both made their first four shots (five for Bynum), but in fairness, so did Lamar Odom (5-of-5 including a three). That’s unfair in many ways.

Leonardo DiCaprio4:35 Bryant got a step on Miles, dribbled right past him and finished at the rim plus the harm to cap a sudden 10-0 run that put L.A. up 59-43. It has to be frustrating playing the Lakers when they’re rolling like this, because Phil Jackson can just bring Andrew Bynum and Derek Fisher off the bench to close the final four minutes right after a big run.

1:33 Williams nailed his fourth triple of the half, but all it did was answer Ariza’s second three, setting the score at 66-49.

0:20.0 It was Utah, not L.A., who closed the half in terrific fashion, scoring the final nine points to cut L.A.’s 20 point lead to 11. Who else but Williams led the way with seven points and an assist (17 points, six dimes in the half) for the Jazz.

Nonetheless, an impressive half for a team that seems to have more options than it can even use, like a battleship with guns, cannons, missiles and rockets. You know … lots of firepower.

Justin TimberlakeLeo or Timberlake?
Which courtside star is more the man? That’s a tough one. You be the judge.

Third Quarter
10:45 Utah picked up the third right where the left off the second, getting back-to-back jumpers from Korver to cut the lead from 20 down to six. If L.A. wanted a wake-up call, there it was.

9:33 L.A.’s first points in four minutes going back to the second quarter came from Bryant on a baseline jumper, making it 68-60. But as Bryant missed a contested jumper on the next possession, you wonder why L.A. isn’t going back inside to Bynum and Gasol, who were so unstoppable in the first half.

Ariza6:53 Feeding Gasol with Boozer guarding him, L.A. got a lefty hook for two, then another layup on the next possession to push the lead back to 11. Meanwhile, Ty weighs in on the Leo-JT debate, saying that it’s no contest: He’s on DiCaprio. ABC’s John Hartung, however, is going with Timberlake. Intern Sophia says “Justin hand down.” I’m undecided.

5:45 A steal that nearly netted L.A. a layup and pushed the lead to 13 instead saw Bryant’s pass get deflected, and Brewer get a layup at the other end. Bryant was somewhat robbed again on the next play, when his layup attempt rolled around the rim and was interfered with by Gasol. Williams capitalized with his fifth three to make it a 75-69 game.

4:53 Bynum’s not known for his passing skills, but he’s actually pretty good for a big man (he simply gets outshined by Gasol and Odom, two of the game’s best). Alas, his find saw Pau get an and-1 layup; Bynum then notched his second swat by getting Boozer at the other end. In related news, Bynum’s arm is roughly the length of Timberlake’s torso.

3:35 Well, that was a terrible call … No other way to put it, because Bryant got hit with the body and on the elbow by Williams but got no love. Korver took advantage by hitting a three, Utah’s seventh, all by Korver (2) and Williams (5). Utah was at a very solid 54.9 percent for the game at that point. Meanwhile, Andy Garcia, Michelle Kwan, Dustin Hoffman, Leo, Timberlake, Jessica Biel and Jack all got love from TNT.

2:25 Kobe’s pull-up J answered Boozer’s, and got him to 12 points on 4-of-9 plus a team-high seven assists, five boards and two steals to that point.

0:32.8 L.A.’s best defensive possession in a while resulted in a 24-second violation after Bryant hit a ridiculous forced turnaround from 20 feet. The possession was keyed by Brown’s terrific job of getting around the high pick and roll to force a Williams pass, though Gasol’s pop out was helpful as well.

0:25.5 Shannon Brown, how ’bout it? The kid’s been just fantastic, nailing a contested triple right after that defensive play to put L.A. up 11. Impressive stuff, and a great close to the quarter by L.A. despite Utah’s best effort.

gasolFourth Quarter
12:00 Inexcusable move from a photographer with the Kiss Cam closing in on Timberlake and Biel, stepping right in front the camera and obstructing the view of 20,000 people. Hope he got a good shot though! Horrible.

11:34 Meanwhile, Brown cut to the hoop and drew a hard foul from Collins, making both to put L.A. up 13.

10:47 The second half hasn’t been as good as the first for Bynum, who missed five straight shots after hitting his first five and looked at times a step slow on defense. But he’s making progress. At the other end, Bryant continued to assert himself with a highly-difficult and-1 driving leaner that made it 96-81 Lakers.

9:18 What a great possession from Odom, who grabbed an offensive board with four Jazz players around him, kicked it out, then caught a pass in the corner before nailing a triple. On the next possession, Brown hit a tough fade-away jumper to put L.A. up 101-88.

7:53 Deron Williams is very, very good, as if another smooth pull-up jumper that got him to 27 points and nine assists was needed to emphasize the point. He really can’t be guarded. An NBA scout the other day told me that he thinks Williams is clearly better than Chris Paul as an all-around player, and I’m not sure I disagree.

7:30 Shannon Brown! Reverse slam, and a beauty, and he had 12 points off the bench.

5:24 Williams answered Odom’s seventh make in seven attempts with another pull-up jumper, his 12th success in 18 attempts (35 points), to pull Utah within eight at 107-99. We’d heard from Phil Jackson that L.A. wasn’t going to be as aggressive defending Williams as it was in game one, when he struggled from the field, and though that may have contributed to D-Will going off, none of his teammates were able to join him. Along those same lines, Utah managed only five offensive boards to that point, to the 20 they grabbed on Sunday when the Lakers posts left their men to help on Williams.

4:38 Kobe’s deep three rimmed out, but here’s the predictable crunch time lineup for L.A.: Fish, Bryant, Ariza, Odom and Ariza.

3:17 Quickly, the lead was only three. Bryant missed at the rim, and Boozer scored his fifth straight point to make it a 109-106 game. Gasol was then stripped by Boozer, but Ariza returned the favor and fed Odom for a layup at the other end.

1:56 An extremely physical possession ultimately saw Boozer push Gasol in the back going for a board, but Pau missed both free throws at the other end. Fisher responded with a deflection and steal of Williams’ pass, but Bryant made a rare late mistake by turning it right back over attempting to spring Fisher in transition.

1:21 If you had to pick a Laker to make two huge defensive plays, who would it be? Well, it was Gasol, who swatted first Williams and then Brewer to secure a 24-second violation in atonement for his free throw misses.

1:03 Kobe’s not going to miss that jumper. Lakers by seven after Kobe’s 21-footer from the baseline.

0:49.2 Odom committed a hard foul on Brewer, who made both free throws.

0:33.9 So it was Gasol with the defensive plays, Bryant with the jumper, and Trevor Ariza with the dagger, a triple that made it a 116-108 Lakers lead.

0:00 As Gasol cleared his sixth board to close the game at 119-109 for the Lakers, both teams simply walked past each other, handshakes nowhere to be seen, with the series headed to Salt Lake City for Thursday night’s action.