Utah 96, LA Lakers 107
Lakers win series 4-1
Now it’s official. It was essentially a foregone conclusion, but now that it’s happened we can move on. The Lakers are in the second round and prepping to face Houston, in all likelihood, en route to the ultimate goal. The Jazz were a heck of an eight seed, much better than anything outside of the top three or four in the East, but they were never going to match up with us or take more than a game. The one loss was disappointing, as much because we couldn’t close out a winnable game, but it’s to be expected that you’ll let one go here and there. And anyway, we don’t want to have too many days off in between games and get stale waiting for that next match-up.
The first quarter was a fairly stagnant affair, but we pulled in front in the second, mounting a nice run to close the quarter and take a 13-point lead into halftime. Kobe epitomized the team’s effort when he rescued a loose ball/quasi-turnover as the clock wound down and scored it on a ridiculous fall-away in the lane. The third was just one big surge, and we put together another quarter-ending run to take the air out of the Utah sails once and for all. Well, not quite, because they managed to come back from 21 down to within 7 with 4:40 left, and then 6 with 3:30 left. The Jazz went on a 16-2 run to put themselves in prime position, but once Sloan re-inserted his starters (read: Deron Williams), the Jazz lost their momentum, we tightened our defense, and our rebounding and fast break game saved us. We always gotta make it interesting. The important thing is that they got the job done and didn’t let it get any close than that, proving that they could close out a series at the first opportunity.
It was a great team effort tonight. Kobe was brilliant again, if slightly less dominant only because the rest of the guys stepped their game up. Our MVP had 31 points on 10-for-21 plus 4 assists and 4 steals. He was all over the court in this one, giving everything he had to make sure it ended here. Odom had a fantastic game as well, providing some great energy and shooting amazingly well (10-of-15) for his 26 points, 15 boards, 4 assists, and 3 blocks. Pau was good, not great, by his standards, adding 17 and 11 to the overall effort. No one on the bench was particularly enthralling, but the subs performed competently enough. Poor Bynum only made it to 12 minutes and 2 points. Let’s hope he can rest up and get rid of some of that soreness before the next series, because if it is Houston, we’ll need that extra big body down there to defend Yao. Have you seen that guy lately? He’s a monster.