Lakers 111, Jazz 96: Game 4 Running Diary

60411615Lakers – Jazz Gameday Page
The Lakers looked to close out a series for the eighth time in nine tries in Game 4 against Utah at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City. We were there to make sure you didn’t miss a thing:

Inactives
Lakers: Sasha Vujacic (ankle)
Jazz: Mehmet Okur (Achilles)

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz: Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, C.J. Miles, Carlos Boozer, Kyrylo Fesenko

Game 2 Video Preview
As NBA coaches will tell you, the close-out game in a playoff series is always the toughest contest to claim. With the Lakers up 3-0 heading into Monday evening’s Game 4 in Salt Lake City, Lakers assistant coach Frank Hamblen fell in line with that sentiment, and went on to explain why. CLICK HERE to watch.

60411782First Quarter
8:20 It was a much different atmosphere in Energy Solutions Arena than that of Game 3, as the fans were not only louder but more loose, cheering with more fervor on Jazz hoops and not panicking on Lakers buckets. That was nearly balanced out, however, by an bevy of Lakers fans that quickly bought up additionally available tickets to the contest. In game action, Kobe Bryant’s 12-foot jumper made it 7-6 Utah.

2:51 On Saturday, Utah super aggressively double-teamed and crashed the paint, a tactic that helped hold Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom to just 22 total points. Yet the Lakers’ coaches have long been among the league’s best in game-to-game adjustments, and with improved spacing, Gasol scored six, Bynum four and Odom two in the first 10 minutes, the Spaniard’s short jumper putting L.A. up 21-20.

2:14 Bryant, meanwhile, was as clinical as he’d been throughout the series, making 4-of-5 shots before sitting down. That upped his shooting percentage in the series to 55.7 percent after he shot just 40.8 percent against Oklahoma City. In related news, Bryant continues to get healthier. Meanwhile, L.A. went on an 8-1 run to close the quarter, resulting in a 29-24 lead.

60411801Second Quarter
9:33 Bynum, who got involved early in the first thanks to the passing of Gasol, began to show himself increasingly on defense by destroying consecutive Jazz shots, first a baseline jumper from Boozer (volleyball swat), then a driving layup attempt from Ronnie Price (Manhattan Beach 6-Man volleyball spike). Meanwhile, the Lakers were scoring on the other end, using Shannon Brown’s second he-just-violated-Salt-Lake-City-air-space dunk and Bynum’s tip-in to open a 33-24 lead.

6:14 L.A. continued to look everything like the defending champs as 1-of-2 Odom free throws capped an 8-0 run featuring Ron Artest’s long jumper, Brown’s baseline floater and another Odom hoop that put the Purple and Gold up 43-29. The run was 22-6 since Utah led 23-21.

2:50 Now that was just unfair. Gasol whipped out Hakeem Olajuwon’s “Dream Shake” move on the baseline to put L.A. up 53-34. Beyond pretty to watch. Moments later, Gasol’s tip-in of Kobe’s near miss pushed L.A.’s lead to 21 and got Gasol to a game-high 14 points on 7-of-9 field goals. The building was essentially dead at that point, other than those wearing purple and gold. Utah did manage seven points in the final two minutes to cut L.A.’s lead to 17 heading into halftime at 58-41.

60411753Third Quarter
9:15 Utah managed a 5-1 run to start the third, which went against L.A.’s hope to slam the door shut early, though Bryant’s beautiful step-through erased some of that momentum. While the Jazz continued to score, Kobe answered with back-to-back baseline fadeaway swishes on opposite sides of the hoop to keep the lead at 15…

5:47 … At least before another push from the home team, who reeled off a 9-0 run behind a Carlos Boozer tip-in (just his second field goal in eight attempts), C.J. Miles three, Williams transition layup and Matthews transition dunk that cut L.A.’s lead to six at 65-59. Of course, it was no surprise that Jerry Sloan’s team reeled off a furious pride-defending run after the Lakers had so thoroughly dominated the early action.

3:03 A possession after Fisher nailed a triple from the same spot as his Game 3 game winner, Bryant successfully drove to the hoop to put L.A. up 72-65. The constantly-seeking-Lakers-blood Utah crowd then reached a new crescendo as Miles ate up a transition layup attempt by Fish after L.A.’s co-captain stripped Williams, but Bryant nailed a jumper out of the time out as L.A. retained possession. Next came a spirit-crushing corner three from Odom after Boozer turned it over, 1-of-2 Kobe free throws and a Gasol tip-in answer to Millsap’s layup to put the Lakers up 80-67 after three.

In short, Utah offered a furious push to get the lead down to five, but L.A. answered with a late run to tack eight points back on their margin.

60411592Fourth Quarter
10:20 How much does Fisher love the right wing? He nailed another three from that favored spot, his second of the game after the dagger in Game 3, then drew a foul on Williams while attempting a corner three. Making all three, Fish pushed L.A.’s lead back to 17, though Utah promptly went on a 7-0 run to once again stay in the game.

6:25 Bryant was whistled for an offensive foul after lowering his shoulder as Matthews collapsed, but it was only L.A.’s sixth turnover of the game, an impressively low number. L.A.’s lead remained at 12, as two Kobe free throws got him to a game-high 28 points with the Lakers bracing for perhaps one final push from a defiant Jazz team.

2:22 Shutting the door in fitting fashion for L.A. were Gasol and Bryant, the Spaniard going off for 11 of his season-high 33 points down the stretch, and Kobe reaching 30 points for the fifth straight playoff game to open a 109-87 lead thanks to a 16-6 run. Utah had refused to quit throughout, but L.A. was too long, too skilled, too good.

With the 111-96 victory, the Lakers swept the Jazz, won their sixth straight playoff game and advanced to the Western Conference Finals to face the Phoenix Suns.