After Game 1 of L.A.’s First Round series against Oklahoma City, the Thunder practiced at the L.A. Clippers’ facility in Marina del Rey.
Ditto for Utah on Monday after Sunday’s Game 1 of the Lakers – Jazz Second Round series, which – much like Game 1 against the Thunder – the Lakers controlled for the majority of the contest.
Among the most popular topics before Utah’s practice began was the status of injured wing Andrei Kirilenko, who’s been out since March 26 with a strained left calf.
While Kirilenko told reporters that he could possible play in Game 2 on Tuesday and almost for sure Game 3 in Utah on Saturday, Head Coach Jerry Sloan isn’t yet planning on it.
“I can’t worry about him,” said the veteran coach. “I love the guy and hope he gets healthy, but my job is not to worry about him, I’ve got three other guys trying to play that position.”
The other guys playing on the wing – Wesley Matthews, C.J. Miles and Kyle Korver – combined for 37 points, but Matthews and Miles didn’t have much success guarding Kobe Bryant, who made 12-of-19 shots and all seven free throw attempts for his 31 points.
As Jazz point guard Deron Williams explained, his team would of course like to have the lanky Russian to throw at Kobe, but said that actually stopping Kobe isn’t really an option.
“It would definitely help to have him out there, another body to guard Kobe and maybe Lamar (Odom), said Williams. “(Kobe’s) one of the toughest players to guard in the league. He can get pretty much where ever he wants on the court. It really doesn’t matter (what you do to defend him). It’s going to be tough all series long.”
Another concern for Williams is getting better shots for his teammates, who shot a collective 44.7 percent and saw seven shots get blocked, including five from Pau Gasol.
“Their defense is good,” he said. “They did a good job of forcing us out of our offense.”
Williams had 17 points in the first half to keep Utah afloat, but scored just seven in the second half as the Lakers focused in on him down the stretch. While Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant and Shannon Brown all spent time on D-Will throughout the game, Derek Fisher drew the assignment in crunch time.
“No matter who they put on me, I’m just going to try and be aggressive,” said Williams. “I thought it was great how our second group played, but I wasn’t out there for a big stretch, so it kind of took my aggressiveness away when I got back in. I have to do a better job of staying aggressive throughout.”
Gasol has a Fan in Sloan
After Sloan finished his general media session, I asked a follow-up question about Pau Gasol, who’s been on an absolute tear in nearly every facet of the game. He’s scoring (24.3 points in April, 19 in the playoffs), rebounding (12.6 in April, 12.2 playoffs), passing (4.7 April, nearly 4 playoffs), blocking shots (2.3 April, 1.8 playoffs), and shooting an impressive percentage (61.5% April, 54% playoffs).
Deron Williams said that Gasol “played unbelievable all night,” while Sloan offered the following:
He’s a terrific player. He does everything. If he’s not scoring, he’s still doing everything to help his team win. He’s a huge factor in keeping you away from the basket, especially with our size, we’re such a small team having to combat them is tough. He’s just a very good all-around player, he does a great job.
I followed up by asking how Sloan would like to adjust, if possible, on the Spaniard.
“Making shots on the perimeter helps us some,” he concluded. “We still have to go at him a little bit stronger than what we did. I thought Paul (Millsap) did after him and took the ball to the basket a few times.”