Storming out of the blocks in the first quarter, the Los Angeles Lakers never looked back in defeating the Utah Jazz at Staples Center, 119-109 to take a 2-0 lead in the First Round of the NBA Playoffs. The Lakers shot 85.7% in the opening period, connecting on 18-21 from the field, and posting a 41-29 advantage. Kobe Bryant played the role of distributor again and fed his teammates for high percentage looks. Andrew Bynum scored all 10 of his points (4 rebounds, 4 blocked shots) in the first quarter and Trevor Ariza followed up his playoff career high of 21 points in Game 1 with another efficient outing (13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and another career playoff milestone, 9 assists). The Jazz shot a torrid 57% in the opening quarter, but still found themselves outplayed by the Lakers and down by double digits. The Lakers lead ballooned to 22 points in the 2nd quarter fueled by the play of Shannon Brown (12 points, 2 assists), and Lamar Odom (19 points, 8-9 from the field). But the Jazz withstood the Lakers offensive output and rallied late in the period, capping it with a 9-0 run to pull within 66-55 to end the half.
Utah played the Lakers much tighter in the second half and whittled the lead down to six points on numerous occasions. Led by Deron Williams (35 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 7 turnovers), he single handedly carried the Jazz, keeping them within striking distance. But each time the Jazz got close, the Lakers responded with a mini-run of their own. Turnovers and fouls plagued the Lakers in the 3rd quarter as entry passes slipped through hands, and ill-advised, home run passes were easily flagged down by the Jazz defenders. But the Lakers managed to play Utah to a standstill and maintained their 11 point advantage, thanks to a three-pointer delivered by Brown off a Ariza dish to end the quarter.
Opening the 4th, a hard, clobbering foul delivered by C Jarron Collins on a driving Brown brought the Lakers bench to their feet, but Brown quickly sprang up to his feet and quietly sank his two free throws. The Jazz made their final run at evening the series behind Williams and Carlos Boozer (20 points, 10 rebounds). They managed to trim the lead to 109-106 with 3:16 left to play, but a steal by Ariza led to an Odom layup, followed by four missed shots by the Jazz combined with three turnovers. Pau Gasol, (22 points on 9-11 shooting, 6 rebounds), blocked consecutive Jazz shot attempts, with the later resulting in a 24-second clock violation. Kobe (26 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals), then nailed a difficult 21-foot fade away over Ronnie Brewer, and then Ariza canned a trey off a Kobe assist and the threat was over. Derek Fisher, (11 points, 5 assists, 2 steals), held Williams scoreless (0-5) in the final 5 minutes of action. In all, the Lakers posted 7 players in double figures, shot 60% for the game, recorded 33 assists, and sent the Jazz heading for home down 0-2 and wondering how to slow down this offensive juggernaut. Game 3 in Utah is Thursday evening where the Jazz’s home record is 33-8.
dEDGE Post Scriptum
A big thanks goes out to Kurt at Forum Blue and Gold for posting a link to my article, Playoff Observations. His willing assistance and candid feedback go a long way towards making my blog successful and worthwhile. Without his invaluable help and guidance, this blog would be lost in a sea of futility and chaos. Plus, he’s one cool dude. Make it a habit to visit his informative and insightful Lakers blog, and stop by here often too. Go Lakers!