NBA Playoffs First Round Matchup
The Lakers completed an excellent regular season, posting a 65-17 record capped off by beating the Utah Jazz. The Lakers have been dominant in the first round as a No. 1 seed, 9-0 to be exact.
This will be a tough series for the Lakers due to the fact that Utah has to be the best No. 8 seed ever. This is a far tougher matchup than the Mavericks or Hornets. This team was a No. 4 seed in the 2008 NBA Playoffs. When these teams met in the second round, this team was able to take the Lakers to six games.
That will not be the case this year, but it will be entertaining and well worth watching. The Lakers will have to contain the excellent point guard play of the Jazz' most dangerous player Deron Williams. The Lakers are a better team and have too much depth and experience than Utah.
Due to injuries, the Jazz got off to a slow start. But by March 10, they had won 15 of 16, looking like a force to be reckoned with. Not long after that, though, they went to to 7-11 and found themselves staring at a first round matchup with the Lakers.
The Lakers have Andrew Bynum back and are at full strength and playing well. The Jazz still have some players nursing injuries. The Lakers were 2–1 in the season series.
1/2: Los Angeles Lakers 113, Utah 100
2/11: Utah 113, Los Angeles Lakers 109
4/14: Los Angeles Lakers 125, Utah 112
Kobe Bryant and Company against Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. This is a matchup of two of the best half-court offenses in the league. A total team effort, getting everyone involved, has helped the Lakers win against the Jazz this season.
PG Derek Fisher 6’1” 210 pounds. 12th Year, Avg. 9.9 Pts, 3.2 Ast, 2.3 Reb, 1 Stl
PG Deron Williams 6’ 3” 207 pounds. Fourth Year, Avg. 19.4 Pts, 10.7 Ast, 3 Reb, 1 Stl
This is a matchup of two veteran point guards and former teammates. Deron Williams has been excellent for Utah and is one of the best point guards in the NBA.
He is athletic and physical and can push the ball at a high rate of speed but is also adept at slowing down enough and getting the team into their half-court sets. He is excellent running the pick and roll play, which continues to be a staple in the Jazz offense, to get off his shot or get a good look for a teammate going to the basket or an open jumper.
He is dangerous in the post and off cuts and the team looks for him there when in need of a bucket. He has averaged 22 points and 12 assists against the Lakers while shooting 48 percent from the field; the Lakers have also forced him into an average of three turnovers. He had a double-double in the last game of the season, scoring 25 points and adding 13 assists.
Derek Fisher is a savvy veteran who can play at any tempo. He does an excellent job of getting the team going, spreading the floor and knocking down timely shots from three-point range. He is a dangerous shooter out of the triangle offense and in transition.
He’s very strong inside and knows all the nuances of the Jazz’ offense. A key matchup in this series, because the Lakers will also play both Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar against Williams in a concerted effort to slow him down.
There will be adjustments per game and depending on how effective he is at some point you might see Kobe Bryant and Trevor Ariza on Williams. Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic, and Jordan Farmar have been productive off the bench. The multiple players at the position combined should outscore the Jazz at the position to limit Williams’s impact. Advantage: Jazz
SG Kobe Bryant 6’6” 220 pounds. 12th Year, Avg. 28.3 Pts, 4.9 Ast, 6.3 Reb, 2 Stl
SG Ronnie Brewer 6’7” 227 pounds. Fourth Year, Avg. 13.7 Pts, 2.2 Ast, 3.7 Reb, 1.7 Stl
Ronnie Brewer is a slasher and mid-range shooter. He has played a solid series against the Lakers; he’ll look to take good shots while conserving energy to defend Kobe Bryant. He has been solid against shooting guards in the Western Conference all season. Now he gets Kobe Bryant, who is a whole different animal and a much more difficult task.
Athletic and physical with long arms, Brewer will have to be ready to defend Kobe in the post, on the perimeter, and most importantly in transition and attempt to stay out of foul trouble.
He has averaged 16.7 points and shot 54 percent from the field against the Lakers this season and has the size and talent to be formidable as well as pose a challenge. Kobe Bryant continues to play at an MVP-level pace himself, while his teammate’s game improved.
He has torched the Jazz in this matchup, averaging 31 points, 4.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds. He can play the role of facilitator against the Jazz but knows when to take over a game. He imposes his will on his opponents in all aspects of the game and has done it all season, playing the part as the “best” closer in the league. Advantage: Lakers
SF Trevor Ariza 6’8” 210 pounds. Fourth Year, Avg. 8.9 Pts, 1.8 Ast, 4.3 Reb, 1.67 Stl
SF C.J. Miles 6’9” 227 pounds. Third Year, Avg. 9.1 Pts, 1.5 Ast, 2.3 Reb
The Jazz have a three-headed monster at the position. The team starts C.J. Miles, brings in the toughness of Matt Harpring, but finishes the game with Andrei Kirilenko— throwing three different skill sets at their opponent. C.J. Miles is an outside shooting threat, Kirilenko is a skilled defender who helps with steals and is an excellent help-defender.
His offense has improved and he can make his presence felt in the series by filling out the stat sheet with rebounds, steals, assists and blocked shots, although he wasn’t the most effective player on the team. He has averaged 15 points in the two games he’s played against the Lakers.
C.J. Miles, who has been out due to injury, has to be effective or it will be up to Kirilenko and Harpring, but the tenacious defense of Trevor Ariza will negate the scoring from this position and cause Utah to look somewhere else for production.
Trevor Ariza is a skilled defender who helps with steals and is a good slasher to the basket. His outside shooting has improved and will help keep his defender honest and not able to be a help defender and block shots. Advantage: Lakers
PF Pau Gasol 7’0” 250 pounds. Seventh Year, Avg. 18.9 Pts, 3.5 Ast, 9.6 Reb, 1 block
PF Carlos Boozer 6’ 9” 266 lbs. Sixth Year, Avg. 16.2 Pts, 2.1 Ast, 10.4 Reb
Boozer normally is a matchup problem due to his size, ability to score with both hands around the basket and being relentless on the glass. The size advantage that the Lakers have will cause Carlos Boozer to struggle inside.
He’ll have to step outside and knock down mid-range jump shots to be effective. He has averaged 16 points and nine rebounds against the Lakers. Pau Gasol has been an unstoppable force since donning a Lakers jersey. He can play forward or center and be a dangerous weapon at either position.
Last season the Lakers weren’t exactly sure how to use him. That isn’t the case this season. The Lakers have been establishing him in the high post and he has been setting the table for the rest of the team.
He forces teams to double-team him due to his size, scoring, and rebounding. What makes him guard is his passing ability out of the double-team, he has made opponents pay for double-teaming. Advantage: Lakers
C Andrew Bynum 7’0” 285 pounds. Third Year, Avg. 14.3 Pts, 3.2 Ast, 8 Reb, 2 Blk
C Mehmet Okur 6’11” 263 pounds. Sixth Year, Avg. 14.5 Pts, 2.0 Ast, 7.7 Reb
Andrew Bynum was in the midst of a breakout season until it was cut short by injury. He missed 32 games but made it back for the playoffs. A big question was whether Andrew would be effective when he returned.
Bynum is healthy and ready to be a solid contributor. Bynum scored 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting, had four rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes against Utah. Look for those numbers to increase with the aide of Gasol, Bryant and Odom feeding him down low.
Mehmet Okur has struggled to avoid injury but will make it back for the playoffs. He is an excellent rebounder and long-range shooter. He can step out and knock down three- pointers, which will cause the Lakers to cross match and place Pau Gasol on him as opposed to Bynum.
The Lakers respect his talent and look to take him out of his game by attacking the interior of the Jazz defense. Advantage: Lakers
Both teams have capable bench players that can provide rest for the starters and continue the team’s high level of play. The Lakers' reserves have more contributors, and despite some struggles throughout the year, have been playing better as a unit.
The Lakers have Lamar Odom back leading the second unit, making them more effective. The guard combination of Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic, and Jordan Farmar has been productive, but Farmar needs to knockdown shots and be more aggressive running the offense. Josh Powell and DJ Mbenga can bring effective rebounding and defense.
Look for Shannon Brown to spend time matched up with Deron Williams as well as Josh Powell and Paul Milsap. Advantage: Lakers
This will be a tough matchup for the Lakers...they'll win in five games or less.