Lakers Prepared For a Real Test in Utah

Jeff LittleSenior Writer IApril 23, 2009

The Lakers are in Salt Lake City, Utah to play the Jazz in game three of the series. The Lakers have owned the Jazz in Los Angeles, but that hasn’t been the case in Utah.

This is why this game becomes the most important game of the series.

The Lakers came up just short of their goal of acquiring the NBA’s best overall record, but lost in that pursuit was the fact that the team earned the league’s best record on the road.

To be a champion, you need to win on the road. The Jazz have the fifth best home record in the league. The Lakers have put their depth on display. In the first two games, Kobe Bryant wore two hats, one as the facilitator early in the game and as the closer late in the game.

It has worked so well, it might not change; however, if the Lakers don’t shoot well no one will be opposed to seeing the black mamba on the attack scoring 30-plus points. The flow of the game and what the Utah defense does will determine if that will happen.

The Utah Jazz aren’t going to lie down, but the Lakers need to put this team away. A win tonight will put the Jazz in dire straights and give L.A. a strangle-hold on the series.

"The series is not over. They just did what they were supposed to do—win at home,'' Utah point guard Deron Williams said. "Now we've got to do what we're supposed to do.''

A win tonight will make this a hallow claim. However, Williams is one of two Jazz players that have been outstanding. He's averaged 25.5 points and 13 assists, and Carlos Boozer, who is making amends for last season’s playoff showing against the Lakers, is averaging 23.5 points with 9.5 rebounds.

Expect both players to continue to play well. The task will be making sure that one of the reserves doesn’t have a hot shooting night. The Utah reserves play better at home than on the road and the entire team will playing with a high energy level. The Lakers will have to match that intensity to keep the Jazz at bay.

The Lakers need to do a better job of taking care of the ball; they’ve amassed 36 turnovers in the series. The Lakers need to control the tempo, glass, get back in transition, and rotate out to three-point shooters.

Establish Pau Gasol in the post and allow him to set the table for his teammates. The Lakers need to get Andrew Bynum going early as well. The Lakers face a true test on the road in Utah and could face adversity if they're not able to match the intensity of the home team and the home crowd.

The Lakers need to improve defensively and limit the Jazz to one shot per possession. This will take the crowd out of the game and play to the Lakers strength. The Lakers need to play a complete game and work to get the ball inside to their big men.

Bynum and Gasol have a size advantage and the Jazz don't have a shot-blocker so the Lakers need to attack the rim. The Lakers need to turn it up a notch and focus on playing hard for 48 minutes and putting together their best game.

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times