May 12, 2008

Deron's Jazz tie series 2-2 with Lakers

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These two Western Conference Semifinals (and the 2008 Playoffs in general) are showing how advantageous home court.

With the Los Angels Lakers / Utah Jazz series, you are seeing a once unstoppable offense in Los Angeles become inefficient as the series grows. A huge part of this is Kobe Bryant's back. Kobe was 13 / 33 from the floor, missing 20 shots. He is 1 for 16 shooting threes in Utah. He got to the line 17 times in Game 3 but only 10 in Game 4. It will be hard for him to get as many as he did early in the series if his back is bothering him. Charging to the rim and taking hits probably won't be the offensive strategy. Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol had monster nights but it was not enough to win in OT.

For Utah, Deron Williams led the way as he has done so many times in his short career. 29 points, 8 / 8 from the FT line, 3 / 4 from 3 Pt, 14 assists / 4 turnovers and 2 steals. He could have won the game in regulation but helped take over with Okur in OT for the victory. Boozer was just 5 / 15 from the field after his breakout game in Game 3. Even though the Jazz got this game from LA, considering how important home court has proven to be the Jazz are going to need a better effort from Boozer down low. Boozer along with Kobe's health are the obvious key's heading into a huge Game 5 late Wednesday Night.

May 9, 2008

Spurs win, down 2-1 to NO Hornets

paulparker.JPGAP Photo / David J Phillip
After two blowout defeats, the San Antonio Spurs have taken game 3 in San Antonio to pull the series' deficit to 2-1 against CP3 and the N.O. Hornets.

Throughout the early going it looked as if New Orleans was on their way to a sweep of the Spurs. Even at home, they had no answer for Chris Paul's play-making ability and David West knocking down jumpers. As the 2nd half went on, the Spurs began to pull away. Once Chandler picked up his fourth foul and had to leave the game, it became much easier for Ginobili and Parker to get to the rim with no significant shot blocker. Ginobili hit a few threes right after Chandler left as well, breaking the game open for good.

This is the problem with the Hornets, as they lack depth especially a lack of bigs. Bonzi Wells and Melvin Ely had some costly errors in turnovers / poor shots, and their lack of size means they have no deterrent when the enemy gets to the rim (sans Chandler).

Like Game 4 against Dallas, New Orleans will be tested having to secure a win in a veteran opponent's home court. It will be important to get Peja and Morris Peterson involved early on offensively. The team shot 2 / 11 from 3 point land. This is after hitting 10 threes (5 by Peja) in game 2. Meanwhile the Spurs hit 11 threes with Ginobili, Finley and Bowen having at least 3 each. This switch in statistics is typical of a series that switched venues and look for these strengths to continue in Game 4.

We saw a switch on defense and Bowen was guarding and locking down Peja, leaving Parker on Paul to get lit up. But the Spurs were content letting Paul get his, so long as they could limit his support. And you certainly could not ask any more from Chris Paul who so far has 4 turnovers and 34 assists (along with close to 30 points per game).

Chandler got a few dunks, but he really only scores when Paul has him set up for an alley-oop. Their main bench offense comes from Jannero Pargo but he was a paltry 1 of 7 from the floor for 2 points. When Peja / Morris Peterson are not scoring much as starters, it is imperative that at least one member of the bench is having a decent night offensively.

While Parker and Ginobili had terrific, 30+ point nights, Tim Duncan scored a modest 16 points. He did assert his power on defense with 4 blocks and 13 rebounds.

We know the Spurs can recover after a loss, and they proved it in this game. They did not blow out New Orleans like the Hornets blew them out in Game's 1 and 2, but a win is a win and this is Spurs style. Can New Orleans respond? If they do not take game 4 in San Antonio, we are looking at a pressure-packed game 5 in New Orleans. They have not succumbed to the pressure yet but we have not seen them in a close playoff series yet, against a quality opponent like SA (sorry Dallas). Maybe they can take game 4 and ride the wave to Los Angeles, but I have a sneaky suspicion that San Antonio is going to pull this series out in 6 or 7 games. Either way Sunday and the rest of this series is bound to be full of drama between two Western powers.

May 5, 2008

Kobe's FT's take Game 1 versus Jazz

With how MVP-to-be Kobe Bryant is playing right now, it will be a tall task for one of the other western conference powers to take down the Lakers. His best assets are his ability to get a good shot off whenever he wants, his propensity to dominate in the fourth quarter, and his innate ability to get to the free throw line better than anyone in the league.

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On Sunday Kobe sliced and diced the Utah Jazz to the tune of 38 points off 50% shooting from the floor and 21 out of 23 free throws, both career highs. The Jazz have a great defense but the Lakers are formidable at all 5 spots on the floor now that they have Gasol in the middle. This is not the first time Kobe has lit up the Jazz in recent times; last year he had a 52 point game and has averaged over 30 points against them the last three years including a few more 35+ point games. While the Utah Jazz play good team defense they struggle against an overpowering athletic specimen like Kobe Bryant and they really have no one at the rim to meet him unless they pit Kirilenko on him.

An efficient game from Pau Gasol helps too (18 points 10 rebounds 5 assists 2 blocks 1 turnover). You have to wonder how Gasol feels losing his twelve playoff games for the Memphis Grizzlies and now winning his first 5 (maybe more) with the LA Lakers. As if he needed a reminder...things are a bit different in Los Angeles.

The Jazz played a poor offensive game but stormed back in the second half. Their home / road splits have been well documented, as they are a nearly unbeatable team at home but have been subpar against good teams on the road. Unfortunately for them stealing a road game against LA will prove much more difficult than ailing Houston, but they must do this at some point in this series if they hope to continue on. Since Kobe had so many free throws it was obvious that Utah was racking up fouls at an outstanding rate. Boozer and Kirilenko left the game while Korver and Brewer (Kobe's main defender) picked up 5. Boozer also had 7 turnovers on the offensive end. Utah also was 4 / 19 shooting three pointers with an 0-5 effort from Okur and 1-6 from Deron Williams. Overall Utah was being pushed back and shooting too many jump shots as opposed to quality shots at the rim. Typical problem for inferior road teams. Game 2 is Wednesday Night, and the Jazz will need to hold Bryant in check and shoot better than .379% to tie the series going back to Utah.