It's almost as if the Jazz allowed the Lakers to score on them at will. It's as if they wanted the Lakers to have that false sense of superiority so they could clamp down late in the game and have a chance at the end. The Jazz are nowhere near as talented as the Lakers who led nearly wire-to-wire. But they allowed the Jazz to stick around who actually had a four-point lead with under four minutes remaining. The Lakers were able to answer and pull out the 100-95 victory but it should've never been that close.
How easy was it for the Lakers? They hit 14 of their first 16 shots and hit 79% in the first quarter. Even the bench that has been horrible through much of the season contributed in the 2nd quarter. Through the first four minutes, they outscored the Jazz 9-5 to extend their lead to 11. Yet, by halftime the Jazz only trailed by 8.
The Jazz's defense was so bad, they mad Ron Artest look like an offensive juggernaut. He hit 4 of his first 5 shots including three layups. At just about every position, the Lakers are bigger than the Jazz. They were allowing the Lakers to go one-on-one in the post and they got burned. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum have no problem going one-on-one with the likes of Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap, Kyrylo Fesenko, and Kosta Koufos.
Finally, in the third and into the fourth, the Jazz began playing better defense. Their guards went to bother the big men when they got it in the post and they forced some turnovers. They picked up the energy and they got right back in the game. The Lakers would get the lead up around double digits and the Jazz kept cutting into it. The Lakers could never break the game open and it almost cost them.
The Lakers' bench played well at the beginning of the second quarter but that was not the case in the fourth. No one in that second unit looked capable of creating their own shot and they missed 10 of their first 11 shots. Without Gasol and Bryant in the game, the Jazz went on an 8-1 run to cut the lead to a single point and they even had a four-point lead, 93-89, with four minutes remaining.The Lakers should have put the game away in the first half, but they allowed the Jazz to stick around. But they were able to take advantage of their size to finally put this one away. There were three big plays down the stretch that illustrated their size advantage:
1. 3:18 - Bryant drove towards CJ Miles who tried to pick up the offensive foul with a flop. This allowed Bryant to go in for the layup and he was fouled by Millsap. Miles is actually a decent size matchup but he doesn't always play like it and Millsap isn't the intimidating presence that's going to keep Kobe from driving inside. The three-point play gave the Lakers the lead for good.
2. :50 - Bryant pulled up and missed a midrange jumper but Odom grabbed an offensive rebound over Carlos Boozer and got the put back. This put the Lakers up 98-95.
3. On the next possession, Bryant walked in through three Jazz defenders for a layup. Bryant is not the explosive guard he once was. Try to remember the last time he ran out on a fast break (it's been awhile). So when he drives to the basket it's almost in slow motion. He makes all the right moves but he should never be allowed to get to the basket without someone getting in his way.
The Lakers outscored the Jazz 15-6 to end the game. This type of lackluster play is fine when they're playing at home but if they don't come out with more intensity in Utah, this series will go on longer than it should.