Arch Enemies: Can The Jazz Overcome The Mighty Lakers?
Every superhero needs a villain: Superman has Lex Luther, Batman has the Joker, and Spiderman has the Green Goblin. It's not much different for great NBA teams; Jordan's Bulls struggled with the bad boy Pistons for years. Those same Pistons were battling Larry Bird's Celtics before that, and right now the Utah Jazz have the Los Angeles Lakers.
Now by no means are the Utah Jazz a great team yet, but only because they have failed to get it done in the playoffs. A break through against the Lakers this year would suddenly vault the Jazz into the upper echelon of teams in the West and suddenly they would become a title contender instead of just another early round road bump.
To extend the superhero analogy, if the Jazz are Superman then the Lakers are Lex Luther in Kryptonite body armor. Every weakness the Jazz have is a strength of the Lakers, as proven by the last two years when the Lakers easily ended the Jazz season in 6 games in 08 and in 5 games in 09.
So what do the Jazz need to do to make it back to the Western Conference Finals? Here are a couple things that have to go Utah's way if they want to take a step out of the shadows in the Western Conference and become a dominant force.
1) It's all about Boozer
Deron Williams is Utah's best player, and its not even really close, but this series hinges on Boozer's ability to score and get to the rim. Dealing with Odom and Gasol's combination of size, length, and athleticism has been something he has been unable to do the last few years. If Boozer wants to endear himself to Jazz fans permanently a huge series against the Lakers would not only win the hearts and minds of the Utah fans, but would also lead to a huge payday this offseason.
2) Deron Williams takes the next step
Deron Williams has been making his case for being recognized as the best point guard in the NBA for several years now, only you wouldn't know it because he plays for a team with no media hype. Coming off a series where he dominated against Chauncy Billups it is crucial that Williams exploits his matchup with Derek Fisher/Jordan Farmar. Against the Nuggets, Williams became the first player to have at least 20 points and 10 assists in 5 straight games in a playoff series, another fantastic series and a Jazz victory would rightly place Williams at the top of the NBA's point guards.
3) Make permiter shots
With little in the way of a perimeter threat at shooting guard the last two years, Kobe Bryant was not forced to play defense on anyone, this left Bryant often playing five feet off Ronnie Brewer and doubling Boozer in the post even before the ball got there. The Jazz dumped Brewer for cap room and to open up minutes for the fantastic undrafted rookie Wes Matthews and C.J. Miles. Combined with Kyle Korver coming off the bench, they must make the open looks they get to spread out the Lakers defense and give Boozer a chance inside.
4) Play the 'Melo defense
Looking at box scores alone one would think that Carmello Anthony lit up the Jazz in their first round series. This is true to a point, but the way Anthony got his points was often not easy and he rarely had help from his teammates. The same must happen with Kobe Bryant. Bryant is going to score close to 30 points a game, and there isn't much anyone on the Jazz can do about it, but they can make those shots come from the outside, and they can take away his teammates. If the Jazz can get Bryant to call out the rest of the team for not making open shots the way Anthony did in the first round it would be a huge victory for the Jazz.
Overall, do the Jazz have what it takes to finally topple the Lakers? Probably not, as the Lakers are just too talented and the Jazz are going to sorely miss starters Andrei Kirilenko (out for at least the first 2 games) and Memo Okur (out for the season), but nobody gave the Jazz a chance against the Nuggets either. The Jazz can truly become Superman and take their place among the NBA's elite with 4
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