Let’s cut to the chase. The Lakers are the more talented team in this Western Conference Semifinal matchup with the Utah Jazz. L.A.’s trio of near 7-footers, in Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom has overwhelmed the smaller Jazz.
In essence, the defending world champions are perfectly built to defeat Jerry Sloan's team, regardless of what Utah does.
With that said, L.A. is not out of the woods yet, infact, with Games 3 and 4 looming at Energy Solutions Arena, this series could take on new life.
What’s the hitch?
It’s simple. The referee’s will step in and do their usual hatchet job of altering a playoff series. They’ll call an avalanche of fouls on the Lakers, and the hometown fans will walk away believing justice was served.
The Lakers frontline of Gasol, Bynum, and Odom will spend more time on the bench because of foul trouble, and Utah should shoot a higher percentage at home. And if injured Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, can contribute anything, it should be enough for the Jazz to squeeze out a victory or two at home.
How do I know this? Call it years of experience watching David Stern's officials in action.
The league and its TV partners want drama, and they don’t mind the conspiracy talk. L.A.’s parade to the free-throw line will be halted. And their layup drill will be replaced by hard fouls and no-calls.
Regardless of what many NBA experts think or have proclaimed about this series, Games 3 and 4 won’t be a walk in the park for the Lakers—it’s going to be a hard-noised, intense set of games.
Besides, deep down inside, the Lakers know they have a game or two to play with, they have no urgency to win, that’s Utah’s problem.
Watch out for the subtle adjustments that are about to come from NBA officials. They’ll give Utah every opportunity to win at home and tighten this series up.
A close and competitive series is what Stern wants, regardless of the Lakers dominance so far.
No question that L.A.’s size has been the major difference in this series. Coupled with the unmatchable efforts of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, a sweep could be possible if the Lakers come ready to battle two opponents.
However, in the words of a certain ESPN college football analyst, "Not so fast my friends.”
The return of Kirilenko from a strained calf muscle will add much needed defense and a unique scoring threat to the Jazz’s lineup.
Kirilenko, if healthy, has the ability to fill-up the stat sheet at a remarkable rate. His rebounding and scoring ability in the paint, adds a missing dimension to the Jazz.
Guarding the lanky Russian, will potentially put Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, and/or Andrew Bynum in early foul trouble. If it works for the Jazz, then you’ve got a new series. If not, then it’s time to get out the brooms.
What do you think the NBA wants?
Odds are the Lakers will lose Game 3, no matter how hard they play—the NBA’s higher archery just wants it that way. From a business standpoint it’s simple: More playoff games, equals more money—both for the league and its partners.
Why else do we have these ridiculous first-round playoff series’ that seemingly go on forever?
It’s about the money, we know that.
I’m not blowing the lid off something new with the NBA, but the refs do have a skin in the game, it's called job security.
Officials have always called these types of games with the home crowd in mind, and they obviously play to the crowd.
How many times do we need to see 70-year-old Dick Bavetta doing hand stands and cartwheels just to make a simple traveling call on the road team? What a clown.
The league and its officials can do whatever they want. They’ll call phantom fouls, no-calls, and touch fouls. All at the drop of a hat.
They’ll do whatever it takes to get their desired outcome.
And if a coach or player or owner, voices a different opinion, then Stern will simply fine them or call them into league headquarters to see if they really want to be part of the league or not.
Just ask Mark Cuban.
And have you noticed how quiet the NBA landscape has become ever since the commissioner issued his “gag order” telling everyone—including Charles Barkley—to shut up about the referees and their calls?
Stern said it was undermining the public confidence in the league. Ah, memo to the commish: The NBA lost public confidence decades ago, and then it hit rock-bottom with the Tim Donaghy saga.
It’s pathetic that Stern would conveniently choose to forget the biggest black eye in league history. Nobody else has.
His reaction to poor refereeing is to squash any talk of descent. Nip things in the bud. Don’t fix the problem Stern, just sweep it under the carpet.
Never mind the fact that officials are blowing calls left and right. How many times did Carlos Boozer get hammered in Games 1 and 2, and no foul was called? All we heard was C-Booze and his cry of “And one!!!” but no whistle.
The frustration is written all over Boozer’s face.
No one actually believes that NBA officials are being honest in their star treatment. These guys are as phony as a three dollar bill. The cynical outlook towards referees is similar to that of your local weatherman—they get it right about 30 percent of the time, but still have jobs.
Donaghy fixed and gambled on NBA games, that’s a fact. This story is still fresh in people’s minds and the commissioner should know better then to try and muzzle players and coaches.
Expecting them to remain silent when amazingly bad refereeing happens has never worked. It simply perpetuates what’s wrong with the league.
The sad truth is this: NBA referees are consistently, inconsistent.
End of story.
If the league really wanted to be transparent, they would mandate that officials be available for post-game interviews, just like players and coaches are.
That would never happen because they don’t want referees contradicting themselves to reporters and the fans.