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The Jazz Strike First and Last to Overtake the Lakers, 88-86

Paul PeszkoSenior Writer IApril 24, 2009

SALT LAKE CITY - APRIL 23:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives against Carlos Boozer #5 of the Utah Jazz in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Energy Solutions Arena on April 23, 2009 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 Getty Images (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

It was a game of quarters. The Jazz won the tipoff and got the ball to start the first and last quarters. The Lakers started the second and third. And that’s how the scoring went.

The Jazz outshot the Lakers in the first quarter 50% to just 24%, and won the quarter, 26-17. The Lakers cut that lead down to four points at halftime by taking the second quarter, 22-17.

The Lakers came out hot to start the third quarter and built up a 13-point lead halfway through the quarter. The Jazz were able to cut that lead to eight points, 68-60.

The Jazz got the ball to start the fourth quarter and came out blazing with a 16-4 run to take the lead. The Lakers managed to get it back, only to see Utah forge ahead once again.

The lead changed hands several times over the last few minutes, but it was Deron Williams who put the game away on a 10-foot jumper with just 2.2 seconds remaining.

Two factors killed the Lakers; Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant

Andrew Bynum was particularly ineffective, as he has been in all three games. He had four points, two rebounds, and five personal fouls in just seven minutes. That meant that Pau Gasol would have to stay on the court extra minutes and it showed, both at the foul line and on the boards.

Gasol was just four of 10 from the free throw line. Working on weary legs, he allowed Carlos Boozer to snatch 22 rebounds while Gasol could only manage nine in 43 very long minutes for him.

That also meant extra minutes for Lamar Odom who hasn’t started a game since Andrew Bynum returned from his knee injury. Fatigued or not, Odom was the one player who brought any kind of energy to the Lakers' game. He was their leading scorer with 21 points and top rebounder with 14 in 41 minutes.

But it was the surprisingly dreadful Kobe Bryant who could have made this an easy win for the Lakers. Bryant made only five of his 24 shots. His 24th was a last second three-pointer that hit the back of the rim.

After getting off to a 25-8 run in the third quarter to take a 13-point lead, the Lakers let the Jazz go on a 25-8 run in a game that will cost them dearly down the line.

It is impossible to win an NBA title without a killer instinct. A championship team must be able to finish off their opponents, especially when they have a 13-point lead in the third quarter and lead by eight points to start the final period.

Boston showed that killer instinct tonight, coming back to crush the Chicago Bulls at the United Center in Chicago, even though the Celtics were without Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe. Once they got the lead, they didn’t let up,

But any team that can allow Carlos Boozer to score 28 points in the first game, 20 in the second game, and 23 more tonight, along with 22 rebounds, does not have the killer instinct of a champion.

The Lakers, in my opinion, do not have that trait and have not had it all season long. They will not win the NBA title, and perhaps will not even repeat as Western Conference Champions, unless they can slam the door in Utah’s face in Game Four.

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