Lakers – Jazz Running Diary: Game 3

Lakers FansRead 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
Lakers – Jazz Running Diary, April 19, 2009
Lakers 113, Jazz 100: Postgame

Game 2
Lakers – Jazz Running Diary, April 21, 2009
Lakers 119, Jazz 109: Postgame

Lakers: Adam Morrison, Sun Yue
Jazz: Mehmet Okur*, Kosta Koufos, Morris Almond
*Okur will miss his third straight playoff game with a strained right hamstring.

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko*, Carlos Boozer and Jarron Collins
*Kirilenko is starting in place of Kyle Korver for defensive purposes.

Pregame Thoughts
That Jerry Sloan would tweak his lineup at this stage of the season shows a certain sign of desperation … In other words, Utah had to shake something up to have a better chance to beat L.A. In that case, going defensive isn’t a bad idea in principle (with Kirilenko assigned to the hot shooting Ariza), but it’s also an idea that could backfire since Utah won’t get the bench boost it’s used to from the Russian. Furthermore, L.A. probably doesn’t want Ariza taking a great deal of perimeter shots, as it will focus on ball control and getting the rock down to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

GasolFirst Quarter
12:00 Left ear drum nearly pops during warmups. If the regular season game here in February was like a Metallica concert, this is closer to having Metallica play in your dorm room.

11:55 The noise level dropped off about 100 decibels when Kirilenko threw his opening touch into the crowd. But here’s what you should know about Utah’s crowd … When the ball went off Boozer’s leg out of bounds on Utah’s next possession, protests went up like it were a hugely obvious wrongful conviction in a Supreme Court trial. This will get worse, and makes the job much tougher on the referees.

9:36 While the Lakers had yet to get a good shot, turning the ball over twice, Kirilenko finished at the rim for a 4-0 lead that could have been 8-0 had Brewer and Williams not missed open looks.

8:17 However, some great ball movement resulted in a Fisher three as the Lakers began to settle down a bit, staving off the early Jazz charge with just a one-point deficit. Subsequently, Bynum, who’d committed a silly foul in the first minute, was charged with his second as Collins went up for a layup, and Odom checked in for the visitors.

7:03 Odom doesn’t wait long to make his presence felt, does he? A top-of-the-key three put L.A. up 10-7. The only other player that’s as good as Odom off the bench in the NBA is a healthy Manu Ginobili, and in these playoffs, the only guy even close is Jason Terry … And he only helps you on one side of the floor.

5:23 Did you know that if you foul somebody on an inbounds play before the pass is made, it’s two free throws? Fisher found out as Williams’ two shots made it 13-10 Jazz, which preceded a Boozer jumper and Millsap layup that capped a 10-0 run.

3:30 Fisher finally stopped the bleeding with a tough, contested, running banker in the lane that was of the no … no … no … yes variety. The Lakers were shooting only 25 percent to that point, 4-of-16, not quite as good as Thursday’s 18-for-21. Jazz 19, Lakers 12.

2:40 After a Boozer free throw, the Lakers starters were lucky to be down by just eight. They were relatively soft in the lane defensively, didn’t get great ball movement with the exception of a few plays and were short on most jumpers. Into the game came Shannon Brown and Luke Walton, joining Bryant, Gasol and Odom. It was Bryant who took the first shot, and was short for the fourth straight time.

0:47.7 Odom put a nice move on Millsap, didn’t get a foul call on his layup attempt but grabbed his own board and stuck it back to make it 24-17. Brewer answered with a jumper, and Walton missed good looks from three and in the lane, respectively, allowing Utah to take a 9-point lead into the second quarter. The good news for L.A. is they couldn’t have played much worse, and had 36 minutes to make up for it.

Boozer was terrific with nine points and 11 boards to lead the Jazz, while Bryant failed to score, Bynum had just two free throws and Gasol went 2-for-7. Odom was the only Laker to play well, and would remain on the floor alongside Brown, Sasha Vujacic, Walton and Bynum to open the second.

Second Quarter
11:45 A three pointer from the wing, courtesy of Vujacic, seemed to be a set play with a backscreen on the weak side.

10:46: Vujacic then grabbed his own miss, and found Bynum on the block for a bucket. Four-point game. On a less positive note for L.A., Bynum was called for an offensive foul after Millsap collapsed backwards on the center’s spin move, which brought Gasol right back into the action.

8:31 Utah failed to score without Williams in the game, and as Vujacic and Brown both took bad shots out of rhythm, the score was 26-23 Jazz until a graceful driving layup from Odom, whose seven points led L.A.

7:35 Utah finally got its first points of the quarter when Boozer hit from the perimeter despite Gasol’s defense. Heading into a timeout, the Lakers had to feel good about surviving Utah’s opening salvo thanks in part to a nice boost from the bench.

Fisher6:09 Bryant simply wasn’t in a good rhythm with his jumper, missing for the fifth time after Brewer’s dunk made it 30-25. In unrelated news, I’m trying to picture how Jack Bauer would stop a criminal threat in this rabid environment. He was in full-out seizure mode, literally, after Monday’s episode of “24″ with some unknown chemical eating away at his body … But I have a feeling he’ll bounce back.

4:45 Bryant’s first make was a beauty, a driving reverse finish off glass, before using glass on the other side of the rim on L.A.’s next possession to feed Odom for an alley oop (well, actually, Odom just rebounded Bryant’s miss and put it back, but it sounded better that way). The tip brought L.A. – who had yet to lead – within two.

2:41 The fans tried to get going again as Gasol went over Boozer’s back heading into a timeout, but there was some tension in the building since L.A. was shooting just 29.3 percent on 12-of-41 from the field, yet trailed by just three. Symbolizing this spirit was the dude in front of Ty Nowell and myself, sporting full blue body paint and a Boozer jersey.

1:06 At it again on the offensive glass was Odom, who pulled in his fourth offensive board and stuck it back to get to 11 and seven off the pine as Bynum and Gasol combined for 10 points and six boards…

0:25.0 What a half from Odom, who grabbed yet another offensive board before hitting a contested fadeaway to cut Utah’s 8-point lead to 43-39 heading into halftime. L.A. needed every one of his 13 and nine as Bryant (1-of-10), Gasol (3-of-8) and Bynum (1-of-2 in six minutes) had their worst combined effort in a long time. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Odom kept the Lakers in the game.


Third Quarter
One almost ridiculous stat from the first half: L.A. has as many assists as there were Beatles band members. Four. That’s it. Eleven offensive boards helped make up for it (thy name is Lamar). By the way, if part of Utah’s game plan was to try and limit the open looks for Ariza, they certainly did, and he missed all three shots he took. But make no mistake, this half will feel the imprint of No. 24, one way or the other.

11:40 Kobe for three. Then a minute later, a feed to a cutting Odom, starting for Bynum, and a big leaning lefty dunk that quickly gave L.A. its first lead of the game. And not to gloss over the Bynum exclusion, is Jackson merely rewarding Odom for his stellar play here?

10:46 Kobe jumper, in traffic. He missed his next two, however, as Gasol had yet to touch the ball on offense in the first two minutes.

9:03 Can’t emphasize enough how good Odom’s been. His layup in traffic capped L.A.’s 10-2 run to start the quarter, and his defensive board (his 10th) came after three consecutive possessions in which he quickly rotated from the weak side to clog the lane for the Lakers. An ensuing timeout preceded another offensive possession for the Lakers, who’d temporarily taken the crowd out of the game before the Jazz music guy played Lady Gaga’s “Poker Room.” Good song. But Kobe still hit a jumper out of it, putting L.A. up seven.

7:46 There’s a triple from Ariza thanks to Bryant’s kick out, who missed his only attempt in the first half but had hit 6-of-7 in games one and two.

6:48 Bryant made a great basketball decision to hit a trailing Ariza in transition for a dunk after Fisher stripped Brewer, pushing L.A.’s lead to 11. A certain swagger that was absent in the first half had returned almost immediately after Bryant’s corner three, and the Jazz were on their heels. Basketball tradition would suggest, however, that the home team would have a counterpunch waiting at some point, but make no mistake – L.A. hit ‘em in the mouth to open the third, scoring more points than it had in either the first or second quarter.

4:29 Add another jab from Ariza, in the gut, in the form of another corner triple that put L.A. up 64-51. Remember, the purple and gold had amassed only 39 points in the first, but had already scored 25 to just eight from Utah in the third. I’d tell you L.A.’s shooting percentage if Utah’s staff had passed out halftime box scores. I did, however, get a text from radio voice Spero Dedes, who in addition to calling the game like few can, provided this stat: Utah had scored 25 points on 9-of-28 field goals since the first quarter.

2:46 Not even thinking about making a substitution as Williams missed his fifth foul shot of the night was Jackson, who couldn’t have asked for much more from Fisher-Bryant-Ariza-Odom-Gasol. On second though, he might have been interested in Gasol’s not missing two free throws, and put Bynum into the game.

2:15 Bynum, really struggling tonight in the rare minutes he was on the floor, immediately committed an offensive foul, which preceded a Brewer jumper that cut L.A.’s lead to 10 at 64-54. And there, out of nowhere, was the crowd, rising spontaneously to cheer as Brewer attacked the rim and Bynum committed his fifth foul in in 7:08 of action. It’s hard to imagine a worse game for the young center, who seemed completely out of sorts.

0:33.3 With Bryant on the bench, the Lakers went to Gasol, and the Spaniard drew a reaching foul on Collins before hitting two free throws. Korver answered with a triple, his second in five attempts, though his teammates had collectively missed the other four three-point heaves. At the other end, Odom and Bryant missed jumpers, but L.A. had turned a four-point deficit into an eight-point lead with an overall terrific quarter.

PauFourth Quarter
12:00 Utah’s (insane?) mascot climbed to the top of a huge ladder on five foot stilts, then held up two signs. Um … Does he have life insurance? That’s the opposite of the phrase “Safety first.”

11:26 Shannon Brown’s cut to the hoop and finish off glass after Gasol’s pretty pass negated a Korver jumper, but Harpring answered with a driving layup, and Brewer canned a three to cut L.A.’s lead down to three rather quickly. The Lakers seemed to miss Odom’s weakside defense on all three Utah scores.

10:23 Gasol missed his fourth free throw, and Harpring hit again to give bring the Jazz within two. Where was Kobe Bryant, by the way? He cut to the rim on the next possession and drew a foul, hitting 1-of-2 to get to 15 points, but he was only 4-of-18 from the field and would surely need to heat up for L.A. to hold off Utah’s rally.

9:28 Brown, for the first time, showed some inexperience by biting on a Williams’ pump fake and conceding two free throws that cut L.A.’s lead to one. Odom returned, the Lakers -7 in his absence.

9:00 The crowd was at its loudest when Gasol, complaining of a foul, lost the ball and Harpring broke open for a dunk that put Utah up 73-72. The tide had clearly turned in just 3:30 of action as Utah threw the expected counterpunch.

6:31 After finally getting a layup to go, Gasol missed another free throw, the 9th miss for his team, and Bryant drew a foul after Odom’s defensive board. He made both that time, and the game was tied at 76.

4:38 Another miss from Bryant preceded a Korver three as Ariza sagged off on the sharpshooter, and Utah led by three.

3:28 Ariza missed his second consecutive triple, both of which were wide open, but the Jazz were called for a rare eight-second violation when Williams didn’t get the ball past halfcourt in time heading into a timeout.

Some very, very strange stats at this point, people: We’ve mentioned Kobe’s 4-of-19, Pau’s 6-of-13 (six missed free throws) and Bynum’s seven minutes, but in fairness, Deron Williams had taken only six shots, and missed four of them, in addition to missing five free throws himself. It was Odom (17 and 14) and Boozer (17 and 22) carrying their teams, though Utah got a big lift from Harping and Korver off the bench while no other Laker did much of anything.

2:59 Who else but Odom would catch a loose ball and lay it in. Jazz 79, Lakers 78. Yet after Korver missed a three, Bryant missed again and Williams found Brewer in his office – the baseline under the hoop. Odom fouled him, but Brewer missed 1-of-2, as Utah was no better than L.A. at the foul line. Two point game, 1:58 to go.

1:43 Gasol basically willed in a hook shot with a bit of contact to tie the game, and the crowd was beyond nervous, yet trying to rally into a cheer. Tension building in a serious way.

1:26 Boozer went hard to the rim with four Lakers in the lane, and managed to initiate enough contact for the refs to blow the whistle. He made both: Jazz 82, Lakers 80.

1:06 A great pass from Kobe found Odom all alone for a layup, but Boozer got an equally nice pass from Williams to put Utah back up two.

0:30.5 Double-teamed in the corner, Bryant had no choice but to call timeout with eight seconds left on the shot clock… Quite a lot to think about here. Bryant was 4-of-22, but who else should take this shot?

0:28.0 Sure enough, it was Kobe, on a fantastic inbounds pass from Odom that somehow found Bryant alone at the rim for a layup. Basically, Utah overcommitted in trying to get the ball out of Bryant’s hands coming towards the ball, and he spun away from the pressure and caught a lob over the top…

0:16.9 … But Boozer, who was anything but a difference maker in last year’s playoffs against L.A., made a explosive move to the rack and finished a left-handed stuff, his 23rd point just one more than his rebound total. Full timeout, Lakers. Down two, seconds left, focus on Kobe, is this the Fisher three-pointer play? You have to think that’s at least an option in whatever Jackson called…

0:11.7 Instead, another beautiful pass from Bryant, who found a cutting Gasol as three Jazz players followed his drive to the right. Gasol finished a one-handed dunk, but Utah would have a chance for a game winner.

0:02.2 Was that it? Williams, ranging to his right, pulled up for a 15-footer … Swish. But L.A. had a timeout, meaning it would inbound at midcourt with more than enough time to get a good look…

0:00.3 Two full feet behind the three-point line, Bryant had a look at the rim with a chance to render void a more-than-tough night that had seen him miss 18-of-23 attempts … But he missed. He’d hit enough of those shots to instill a certain confidence that the shot would drain through … Not this time. Utah 88, L.A. 86.