Tomorrow, Silver Screen and Roll will be one week old. Already, I've had the pleasure of bringing on four writers — three from our own SS&R community, and one current front page writer and frequent contributor for Bruins Nation — who have agreed to come on board as front page authors. I'll go ahead and introduce them below (by their handles; they can share their real names with you if they feel so inclined), and then we'll do a Round Table discussion of sorts, with each author sharing their series predictions, along with a few comments.
Wild Yams — If you've spent any time at Lakers blogs, or general NBA basketball blogs, you've probably seen Wild Yams comments. Knowing the quality of his insights and writing skill, I didn't hesitate to bring him on, and he's already written a couple of great posts, including this fantastic advice to visiting fans of other teams.
Ryebreadraz — A frequent front page contributor over at Bruins Nation, ryebreadraz had already begun participating in the comments here when I got a request through Bruins Nation to bring him on board. He brings some really great basketball analysis to the table, and if you haven't yet read his posts on offense vs. defense and positional matchups, then I highly recommend you do that.
Sideout11 — An early contributing commenter here at SS&R, I asked him to come on board after reading this phenomenal fanpost, which ever Laker fan should read... and haven't regretted a moment of it.
FryingDutchman — You've seen him in the comments, and may have noticed his passion for building an intelligent, respectful community here at SS&R. To that end, his primary project as an author will be to draft some guidelines for our community, a manifesto of sorts, that will help us build this into what we want it to be. He's a busy guy, but I'm hoping he'll find time on occasion to write some basketball-specific content, as well.
This our current cast of authors. I'm really excited about each one of them, and I know they're going to be a huge part of making this a top notch Lakers blog. Now, click on through to read their comments and predictions for the series that starts today!
Wild Yams: Lakers in 4
I think some people may be discounting how good the Lakers looked heading into the playoffs based solely on their loss in Portland, and I think that is a mistake. That was the second night of a tough back to back, on the road, in one of the toughest places to win in the NBA, and the Lakers were right there till the end when they ran out of gas. Take that game out of the equation and the Lakers have really been rolling lately, and the last game of the year (the blowout of these Utah Jazz) was just another example of this. I think LA will win the first two games easily, and then it will really come down to them just coming out and playing focused and playing tough defense in Game 3, and I expect the Lakers to do just that. They've shown they can focus themselves and take it to another gear when they want to (ask Boston & Cleveland), and I think they'll be able to do it against a severely outclassed Jazz team, even in Utah. After winning Game 3, it basically will just be on the Lakers to lean on the Jazz in Game 4 through the first three quarters to get them to eventually give up, realizing they're not going to come back and win 4 straight against these Lakers. Call me a homer, but that's my prediction.
Sideout11: Lakers in 5
I believe the Lakers will win the series in five. I'm tempted to say sweep, but the Jazz are not a team that will just lay down like the Nuggets did last year. They will not beat the Lakers in Staples, but they might steal one at home (probably game three, because Kobe will not let them lose a clincher). Energy Solutions Arena is possibly the toughest place to play in the NBA. They are sort of like the Seatlle Seahawks of basketball. Unless the Lakers come out on the road on their absolute best behavior, the Jazz could easily put together one inspired game on their home floor and steal a W. Also, I fully expect Jackson to get some of our key starters (Pau, Fish, and Kobe) some more rest, provided he likes what he is seeing off of the bench. This could make one of the games in Utah closer than expected and possibly lead to a loss, but I believe that the Lakers can afford to lose one if it means fresher starters for what will be a tough round two. All in all, Deron Williams will have a good series, but the Lakers will breeze without needing much help from Kobe, just like they did last year against Denver.
Ryebreadraz: Lakers in 5
I can't see the Lakers losing this series and I can't see it going more than five games. Entering the season, Utah was probably the team I was most scared of in the conference. They had a little bit of everything on the floor, maybe my favorite coach in the league on the bench, and a home arena that's as tough as any to win it. Then, Carlos Boozer went down with an injury, an injury he hasn't fully recovered from, and all of a sudden the team changed. They were no longer as potent in the half-court offense. The Jazz do an inordinate amount of their shooting in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, somewhat because of their inability to score in a full possession without Boozer. I've also been shocked at the Jazz' inability to defend. Jerry Sloan's teams have always been solid defensively and beasts on the boards, but they don't have that edge this year and their record shows it. As much flak as Boozer caught for his lackadaisical defense is years past, that defense was far better than what he's playing now.
I see the Lakers taking the first two at home, losing game three, then wrapping up the series with wins in games four and five. Energy Solutions Arena is just a really tough place to play and worth a Jazz win. I do reserve the right to change it to a sweep though if Okur isn't near 100% by the time the series moves to Salt Lake City.
FryingDutchman: Lakers in 5
I definitely think this series goes to the Lakers in 5. There is no question the Lakers are the better team, with a better starting lineup, a better bench (now that LO is back on there and still playing strong), and a better team morale. Outside of Jordan Farmar, the team is extremely confident right now, and the Jazz are the exact opposite. All that leads towards a sweep, but there are too many mitigating factors for that to be a likely possibility to me. The Jazz still do have a good amount of talent. DWill is sick, and while Boozer isn't 100%, they still have Okur, AK47, and a couple of real athletic swingmen capable of a big night every now and then. Their fans create one of the most hostile environments in the Association, and the team is considerably stronger at home when they feed off off of it.
The elephant in the room in this series is how it will be officiated. I don't make it a habit to comment or complain about the refs, but the Jazz style of play literally forces the refs to play a significant part in the outcome in every single game. If the Jazz are allowed to beat the Lakers up on defense, and their aggressive drives to the basket result in free throws on offense, they are close to impossible to beat, even for a team as strong as ours.
Anyways, my guess is that some combination of those 3 factors is likely good for at least a game. I see both Lakers in 4 and Lakers in 6 as equal possibilities, so 5 games is just about a perfect estimate.
Josh: Lakers in 4
I know the consensus is that the Jazz are too tough not to win one game. But, as you know if you've read my recent thoughts on the Lakers as a Flip-the-Switch team, I don't think we've seen them at their best more than a handful of times this season. The last time was quite a while ago. It's my belief that when the Lakers are playing at their best, this Jazz team hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell — even on their best night, even in Utah.
I think the Lakers have been unmotivated for much of the regular season, because they were so focused on their singular goal of getting back to and winning the Finals. Now that the Playoffs have finally arrived, I think they'll find that motivation much more frequently. So in making my prediction, I'm banking on a much more motivated, focused, intense and effort-driven team showing up than the one that we've seen on your average night in the regular season.
The key game will be Game 3. No way the Lakers lose either of the first two, and if they win Game 3, there's no way they pass up the chance to put the series away. But winning two in LA, there is a chance they might get a bit lazy and start trying to get by on superior talent alone. If that happens, Utah could take Game 3 — reinstilling LA with motivation for strong showings in Games 4 and 5. Maximum of 5 games, but I'm banking on the Lake Show being strongly motivated be the arrival of the Playoffs. Lakers in a 4-game sweep.
If you haven't already, let us know what you think!