Lakers – Jazz Running Diary: Game 4

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
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

Game 3
Lakers – Jazz Running Diary, April 21, 2009
Lakers 86, Jazz 88: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison, Sun Yue
Jazz: Kosta Koufos, Morris Almond, Kyrylo Fesenko

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Odom* and Gasol
Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur
*It’s expected that Odom will start since Okur’s listed as a starter.

Pregame Thoughts
- It would appear that Jackson’s starting Lamar Odom as Jerry Sloan has Mehmet Okur in his Jazz lineup for the first time this series, an interesting development about which we’ll be able to reflect after seeing what Andrew Bynum’s able to do off the bench. How L.A.’s bench performs without Odom will be of interest as well, though Jackson’s expected to again shorten his rotation (Josh Powell and Jordan Farmar were DND-CD’s in Game 3). Yet in his pregame comments, Jackson said that part of the reason behind starting Odom has nothing to do with Okur. Rather, Odom simply has more familiarity playing against the Jazz generally speaking, having gone to six games with this team last season and earning the complete trust of his teammates in the process.

- Odom, as usual, was the guy keeping everybody loose in the locker room – he could be seen talking, at one point, to each of his Lakers teammates. There’s a reason the guy that everybody loves is in the middle of the pregame huddle.

Shannon BrownFirst Quarter
12:00 The noise level hadn’t dropped off from Thursday evening’s game … And neither had the number of (superfluous) high notes that the National Anthem singer attempted to hit. The young man singing on this occasion looked to be about 12 years old, and we’ll give him the edge over the lady from Game 3. By the way, the biggest downside to being in Utah instead of L.A. today is that I missed Spencer and Heidi’s wedding (sigh).

Also, the Jazz played four songs in the final two minutes before tip: “Let It Rock,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” some random techno bit, and “Jump.” Talk about superfluous.

11:44 Kobe Bryant = made jumper. That’s just one shot, but I think we all knew Bryant was going to be aggressive early on.

9:37 Bryant nailed a pull-up jumper on Brewer from the top of the key, then countered Boozer’s jumper with another from the top of the key. The second, however, also produced a foul on Brewer, and went in off glass.

7:27 L.A. was getting great looks thanks to its ball movement and because Utah was doubling Gasol, but Fisher missed two open threes, and Ariza one as Utah went up 10-7 on a Williams’ triple and two free throws. Bryant did answer with his fourth make in as many shots, and Utah pulled a hobbled-looking Okur for Paul Millsap.

5:58 The Lakers took a timeout down 14-9, with all nine points coming on Bryant jumpers. Odom had three boards, but Ariza*, Gasol and Fisher had produced nothing, literally, on the stat sheet. Out of the break, Kobe hit another jumper to go 5-of-6, equaling the number of field goals he hit in L.A.’s 88-86 loss. Meanwhile, anyone who doubted Bryant heading into this game pounded their head on the table.
*One assist.

4:25 Bryant, using a pick from newly-entered Bynum, glided to the hoop for a layup. He’d scored 13 of L.A.’s 15 points, the other two coming on a Fisher jumper, to put L.A. up 1.

2:47 A sick, flu-infested pass from Walton allowed Bynum a two-handed dunk, and to ‘Drew’s credit, he’d established some solid low-post position.

1:44 We were (the opposite of) treated to the worst “We Will Rock You” (Queen) remix of all time by the Jazz Dancers. The arrangement alone would have caused Simon Cowell’s head to explode, and even Paula would have hated it. All negative. Meanwhile, 1-of-2 Fisher free throws made it 21-18 Jazz.

1:05 The group of Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic, Bryant, Luke Walton and Gasol played two consecutive excellent defensive possessions, causing two Jazz turnovers. Utah was able to convert its final two possessions of the quarter into hoops, however, while Brown’s charge and a Vujacic miss from the corner (in and out variety) allowed the Jazz a 25-20 lead.

Injury Update: John Ireland reported that Ariza sprained his ankle, though the starting small forward remained on the bench.

BrewerSecond Quarter
10:46 The Lakers made 8-of-18 shots (44.4 percent) in the first quarter, but six of those eight came from Bryant. The second opened with a Gasol layup and 1-of-2 Odom free throws, and then an Odom layup off a nice inbounds play that made it 27-25.

9:42 Shannon Brown just took off from midcourt and finished a layup despite a hard foul, but missed the free throw. Speaking of hard fouls, the refs are lettin’ ‘em play today, particularly when Gasol’s involved … Or Vujacic, who got hammered on a drive, to no avail.

7:53 Walton and Vujacic hit back-to-back threes in timely fashion after Utah had taken a seven-point lead, which preceded a Brown triple after Gasol passed out of a double team. That capped a 9-0 run, all on threes from Laker subs, and put L.A. up 36-34. Speaking of Gasol … Obviously a physical game in which the refs aren’t calling anything doesn’t favor his style, which made me wonder what Bryant was saying into Gasol’s ear during the ensuing Jazz timeout. Best guess? “You gotta bring the noise Pau … They’re not going to do you any favors. You got this.” Something like that, yeah?

Meanwhile, just got this update on Ariza: He went to the locker room, got re-taped and will return.

6:22 If you re-watched Boozer’s dunk in the final minute of Thursday’s game, you can see that he hooked Gasol with his off arm. When Boozer did it again and drew a foul (hitting both free throws), Gasol looked over at the ref and mimicked the hook.

5:38 L.A. always gets a big boost when Vujacic is hot, and his pull-up three in transition looked pretty pure. Sasha was also doing some work at the other end, frustrating Korver in his hounding way, and getting his hands on Bryant’s deflection of a Williams’ pass that resulted in Kobe’s layup at the other end, giving the MVP a game high 17 points on 8-of-10 from the field. Lakers 43, Jazz 36. And get this: 18 of L.A.’s points had come off the bench.

3:08 A contested pull-up from Fisher was his second straight make, and followed two Gasol free throws to cap a 29-15 Lakers edge in the quarter that saw them take a 49-38 lead. Ariza had checked back in for the very productive Vujacic, by the way???

1:32 Thirteen wasn’t a lucky number for L.A. on Thursday, but that’s where the lead swelled on two Fisher free throws that gave him nine points.

0:49.7 Bryant doubters elbowed themselves in the face as Kobe hit a three. His line: 22 points (which became 24 when he added two free throws) on 10-of-13 from the field, mostly on tough perimeter jumpers. Just an amazing first half from the MVP.

00.3 The Lakers were set to ride into the half with at least a 10-point lead, but Walton went for a baseball pass to midcourt that Boozer deflected towards Williams. Deron promptly took it to the hole, drew a blocking foul on Walton, and finished before adding the free throw. That gifted three points is the kind of play that drives coaches crazy, but if the Lakers thought the Jazz were going to be any less motivated with a 10-point deficit than a seven, particularly with their season on the line at home, they were thinking like Forrest Gump. Bottom line, they’d have to earn it in the second half anyway.

BryantThird Quarter
Three things: A) L.A. needs Bryant to continue to shoot when he’s not doubled, but if Utah starts sending more bodies at him, he may have to defer; B) Gasol looks tired. With Utah’s small lineup, will Jackson buy Pau some time with Bynum?; C) L.A. is not likely to shoot 58 percent as it did in the first, which means execution will be at a premium.

10:10 Someone didn’t cool off at halftime – Bryant canned a fadeaway jumper after spinning baseline on Brewer (that’s a Jordan move), then nailed an end-of-clock jumper from just inside the three-point line. Problem for L.A. was that their low-post defense was completely absent, conceding back-to-back easy layups to Kirilenko.

9:10 Another pair of perimeter jumpers from Kobe made him a spectacular 14-of-17 (82.4 percent). L.A. would simply continue to ride the stallion, and why not, as Bryant took Brewer off the dribble, drew Okur’s foul and hit two free throws to get to 34 points and put his team up 72-61.

6:58 Okur, who’d given the Jazz next to nothing after not playing in two weeks, fouled Gasol on the next possession on a put-back before being replaced by Millsap, who had eight points and two boards in the first half. Mehmet was 0-for-3 with two boards and two assists in 13 minutes. L.A. led by 11 thanks solely to Bryant’s explosion, but was nowhere near comfortable.

3:25 Odom’s slicing layup put L.A. up 81-64 (he missed the and-1 free throw) after Walton had made his third steal of the game on a heads up weak side play. On Thursday, if you recall, L.A. held a 14-point lead with 4:31 to go before the Jazz cut it down to eight heading into the fourth. Turnovers and missed free throws (including two by Millsap, one by Boozer) certainly weren’t helping the Jazz cut into the lead as Bryant took his final rest.

1:56 Walton’s played a fantastic half of basketball, grabbing his own offensive board after a running layup and sticking it back to put L.A. up 19 at 84-65. Kirilenko countered with a Jazz bucket, but Gasol answered right back with his baseline spin move into a slam dunk.

0:24.5 Shannon Brown cut to the hoop and was rewarded with a nice pass. Williams fouled him, and Fatman Sr. hit both free throws to give L.A. an 88-69 lead that they’d hold into the fourth quarter. That would be a 19-point lead after a fantastic third quarter started by Bryant and closed by Walton, Gasol, Odom, Vujacic and Brown. L.A. scored 28 points in the quarter, but it was by far the team’s best defensive effort in recent memory: Utah scored 16 points.

Yet and still, I can’t imagine the Lakers had any sense of comfort. Jackson, Bryant and Fisher would surely implore the purple and gold to play as if the score were tied.

Fourth Quarter
12:00 Bryant returned to start the fourth quarter, with Brown, Vujacic, Walton and Gasol. No messing around for the Lakers.

10:56 Brown, an uber athlete in case you haven’t seen him, skied to grab his own miss before sticking it back in while making a phone call in the air (had some free time). He then pounced on Utah’s inbounds pass, picking Williams’ pocket and drawing a foul. He got one of Kobe’s head pushes, and hit 1-of-2. Lakers by 22. Still, all business for L.A.

9:34 Vujacic for three. Crowd almost dead, even after Korver answered at the other end to make it 94-74. During a timeout, check out these bench contributions:
Walton: Nine points, five boards, three assists, three steals in 18 minutes.
Vujacic: Nine points, three boards, one assist in 15 minutes.
Brown: 10 points, two steals, one assist, one board in 16 minutes.

8:51 A Jazz fan threw a mini ball on the floor, prompting this remark from the PA announcer: “Please keep your balls in your hands.” Fun. Bryant liked it too, nailing his 15th shot in 20 attempts. Fantastic from Kobe.

7:30 Smart timeout from Jackson. Utah had scored just four straight points, and even though the lead was 20, Phil didn’t like the defensive energy. Pau, who had played 36 minutes, finally got a breather as Bynum checked in. L.A.’s still not in the clear here, folks … Something as little as five-straight points could get the crowd right back into the game.

6:22 Well, unless Bryant hits a stupidly difficult quadruple-pump fadeaway from 21 feet. Someone check his blood pressure (Lakers by 20).

5:52 Bynum looked anything but comfortable in throwing away an inbounds pass and missing a jumper, but Ariza erased the bad feeling by picking Boozer’s pocket and hitting a triple at the other end, prompting the flightier of Utah faithful to head for the exits.

1:23 Content to bend a bit but not break, L.A. played ball control offense before Fisher’s three in the corner made it 108-92, cementing an extremely impressive victory that set up a close-put Game 5 at STAPLES Center on Monday.

Check back soon for the postgame summary and some locker room video.