After Game One, Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson bore into his team about not relinquishing any intensity on the defensive end as the game wound down going into Game 2.
The Lakers failed to do that but still defeated the Utah Jazz by 19 points to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.
As the series shifts back to Utah, here are the keys for the Lakers heading into Game Three.
When Will the Fatigue Set in on Deron Williams
Though the Lakers proved to once again to be too much for the Jazz, they witnessed another eruption by the hands of Deron Williams.
Another key for Los Angeles will be to try to subdue the All-Star caliber point guard, and it was plays down the stretch that almost rescued the Jazz from defeat on Tuesday.
Williams scored 35 points and dished out nine assists in Game Two, and made six three-pointers after missing all four of his attempts in Game One.
However, there a few things working in L.A.'s favor and the problem actually may solve itself.
1. He's played over 42 minutes in both games of the series and started to show signs of fatigue late in the fourth quarter when he committed a bone-head play by lunging out and striking Derek Fisher after he had already released his shot, which was from behind the arc. A foul was called and Williams regretfully voiced his frustrations as he walked down the other end of the court.
Also, though the norm for any star player on any team contending in the playoffs is around 40 minutes. Williams has only gotten an astounding eight minutes of rest the entire series and that has to wear on a guy, especially a point guard who, in this case, is his team's most dangerous player with the basketball.
2. A simple option when attempting to contain Williams for the Lakers would be to assign defensive specialist Trevor Ariza to shadow him. Ariza is immensely long and quick off his feet but Williams unquestionably has the edge in strength and can lull Ariza to sleep with his array of through-the-legs dribbles that he's perfected over his years playing the game of basketball.
However, Ariza still would provide a competent opponent versus Williams and his length would really disturb the passing lanes. Also, the fact that he's about five inches taller is a major advantage because he has the opportunity to mask the basket, as Deron is an excellent driver to the basket and is a tremendous finisher for a guard around the rim.
L.A. Must Continue To Start Strong
In their highest scoring period of the postseason, the Lakers shot 18-for-21 from the field and poured in 41 points on Jerry Sloan's usual stagnant defense. In fact, at one point the Lakers made 12 consecutive shots in a row to spur their hot streak.
They continued their torrid antics by coupling that with a 10-0 run in the second quarter and cemented their 11th straight win over the Jazz at the Staples Center.
Though later the Lakers proved they needed every one of those points, as they narrowly held on to the lead during the closing stages of the fourth.
Early in the game, Kobe's act of disrespect (underscored by rumblings of pure strategy) elected to leave a widely grotesque gap between himself as the defender and Ronnie Brewer when No. 8 in powder blue had the ball. Brewer must have taken offense in those actions and he nailed his first three jumpers of the game.
Kobe later adjusted to the events and began to draw closer to Brewer, leap out, and began contesting Brewer's jump shots.
On the other end, Brewer played marvellous defense on Bryant and really sandwiched him for the opening half of the game, before Bryant, in usual form, used grace and his killer instinct to find ways to score. Brewer used physical tactics and really frustrated Kobe enough so that he had Bryant air-balling a jumper on one possession and bawling at the officials the next.
Though Brewer is an excellent on-ball defender, he's no match for Bryant. However, Bryant was lucky on several occasions that he did not pick up a technical foul (because of Brewer)and he had the home-court advantage to serve as motivation. In Game Three, he won't have the latter and referees are known to let the boys play back in Utah.
Kobe will score and lead his team to victory, but he must keep his composure if he wants to stay focused in the series. The Lakers and Bryant can't afford any ejections at this moment, with both games almost slipping through their hands at the finish line.
The series resumes Thursday in Salt Lake City with the Lakers leading 2-0.
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