PG: Deron Williams vs. Derek Fisher – Advantage Jazz
The conversation of who is the best point guard in the league begins and ends with Chris Paul. Deron Williams is a close second, but isn’t quite there. Derek Fisher is serviceable and has plenty of experience but is probably one of the least talented Point Guards in the league.
As most Point Guards do, Williams should have a field day playing against Fisher. The Lakers best hope here is that the three-headed monster of Fisher, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar can tire Williams out by the fourth quarter. Williams will probably average 20 points and 13 assists per game in this series.
SG: Ronnie Brewer vs. Kobe Bryant – Advantage Lakers
To quote the late, great Chick Hearn—Ronnie Brewer has two chances in this matchup—slim and none. And slim just left the building. Kobe could average 40 points per game this series or 15 assists per if he wanted.
A few games at Staples Center might just turn into laughers, bringing down No. 24’s stat line a bit. Regardless, Ronnie Brewer will one day tell his Grandchildren about this series in the same way my buddy Brian Welles reminisces about the time that Baron Davis torched him in a Middle School Basketball game.
SF: Andrei Kirilenko vs. Lamar Odom – Advantage Lakers
The irony here is neither of these guys actually start for their team anymore. CJ Miles gets the nod for the Jazz and Trevor Ariza for the Lakers. Regardless, the chunk of the minutes will go to two of the league’s most overrated players in Kirilenko and Odom.
Both players seem to have all the talent in the world and neither has ever really been able to put it together to become the All Star that they were predicted to be. You can assume that Kirilenko will miss a quarter, a half or even a game in this series due to a mysterious injury.
PF: Carlos Boozer vs. Pau Gasol – Advantage Lakers
All you have to know about Carlos Boozer is this from his Wikipedia entry: After the 2003-'04 NBA season, Boozer’s first team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, had the option to keep him under contract for one more year at a $695,000 salary.
However, the Cavs reached an understanding with Boozer and his agent on a deal for approximately $39 million over six years, which he would sign if they let him out of his current deal.
Once Boozer opted out, The Utah Jazz made an offer. Boozer signed their offer sheet and Cleveland had the option to match, but were already over the salary cap, and chose not to re-sign him.
Boozer's agent subsequently ceased representation, and in addition, the former Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund has said, "In the final analysis, I decided to trust Carlos and show him the respect he asked for. He did not show that trust and respect in return.”
In Boozer’s five seasons with Utah, he has played 276 of 410 regular season games. Blessed with talent and devoid of any integrity, during his annual injury this season, Boozer announced he was going to opt out of his current deal to test Free Agency.
With the Jazz losing seven of nine down the stretch, and likely facing a playoff sweep, expect these playoff games to be Boozer’s last four in a Jazz uniform.
Meanwhile, Pau Gasol toiled away in Memphis until management set him free by trading him to the Lakers. The perfect post player for the Triangle Offense and the ideal compliment to Kobe Bryant, Gasol has flourished in Los Angeles.
He will post gaudy stat lines in this series.
C: Mehmet Okur vs. Andrew Bynum – Advantage Lakers
With Andrew Bynum nearing game shape quicker than Lakers fans thought, the Big Fella should have a field day inside versus the willowy Okur or the smaller Boozer. Bynum’s presence in the middle should clean up some of the mistakes made on the perimeter by Lakers guards.
Coach: Jerry Sloan vs. Phil Jackson
Both coaches have lost in the NBA Finals twice. But Phil’s nine rings to Sloan’s zero have to give him the edge. Plus, and the networks don’t want you to know this –Sloan’s team appears to have quit.
If body language counts for anything, the Jazz’s slumped shoulders in the fourth quarter demonstrated that this team is already making off season plans.
Matchups that won’t Show up in the Box Score
The Shawn Bradley Bowl: If the NBA held a reverse Jackie Robinson Day, both these teams could field an entire starting line of sweater-vest wearing, Frisbee tossing basketball players. The Jazz boast Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur, Kyle Korver, Matt Harpring, Kosta Koufos, and Kyrylo Fesenko.
The Lakers fair-complexioned squad consists of Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton and Adam Morrison. While the Lakers have the best Indie-Music listening player in Gasol, the Jazz’ legion of scarf-wearers would likely win this match up.
Thankfully for Lakers fans, this combination of Snowboarders likely won’t find the floor unless it’s garbage time.
The Carlton Banks Team: Another category the Jazz easily beat the Lakers is black guys with names better suited to East Coast Prep School Boys – Brevin Knight and Paul Millsap. These Dead Poets Society members are joined by actual Prep School grad, Jarron Collins. Something tells me Bill Shakespeare is welcome in this locker room.
Dude, That’s Like a Lady: A match up the Lakers dominate is guys with names that make them sound like a cute chick: Spring Break Vixen Shannon Brown and Russian Supermodel Sasha Vujacic. $50 says Kyle Korver has hooked with women having both names.
Vladimir Putin’s Army – The final measuring stick of this first-round meeting is which team has the most former members of the KGB. Again, the Jazz dominate with the likes of Kosta Koufos, Kyrylo Fesenko and Andrei Kirilenko. If I’m Matt Harping, I’m hanging pictures of disgraced FBI turncoat Robert Hanssen in my locker and hoping for the best.
Final Prediction: In most seasons the Jazz are a tough team for the Lakers. They have a strong Point Guard and run the Pick and Roll to perfection—kryptonite to the Lakers. However, this Jazz team is not like the others. Their swagger is gone and they are looking forward to Carlos Boozer signing somewhere like New Jersey.
Typically I’d suggest a strong home team like this wins at least one game on their home court. But the Jazz have already asked for the check and just want to leave the restaurant. Lakers Sweep.