Two games into the playoffs and the Lakers are 2-0. Not too shabby if you ask me, but now they head to Salt Lake City where they'll have to play in Energy Solutions Arena, one of the NBA's toughest venues. Before we jump ahead to Game 3 though, let's take a look back at Game 2.
Shannon Brown- Maybe it's because as a throw in in a midseason trade we don't expect much from Brown, but the guy is playing fantastic right now. I could get into the 12 points Brown scored, which included his fourth and fifth three pointers of the series. I could even talk about his two assists or his monster dunk, but I want to talk about his defense. Let's think about this. Deron Williams went into halftime with 17 points. He scored just one of those points against Brown. The rest were scored with Fisher on the court. Brown went up against one of the NBA's top point guards and played as good of defense as you're going to play against a guy that good. Sure, Williams picked it up against Brown in the second half, but the first half showed flashes and when was the last time the Lakers had a point guard who played that kind of defense?
Ball Movement- The Lakers had 33 assists on 45 made field goals. Kobe had nine assists, as did Ariza. Fish and Walton each chipped in with five as well. The triangle was working to perfection, especially in the first quarter when the Lakers shot 86%, but it wasn't due to great shooting. The Lakers had very few contested jumpers in the first half and many were within 12 feet. Yes, some of it was due to poor defense on Utah's part, but you cannot dismiss the efficiency with which the Lakers ran their offense. The Lakers score 48 points in the paint, but they weren't driving the ball to the hoop. Instead were moving the ball and making the Jazz switch until they were able to hit a big man, usually coming from weakside to strongside, for an easy basket. The spacing was phenomenal and as a result, the Lakers has passing lanes to move the ball and move the ball they did. LA had found success against the Utah defense this year with the two man game on the weak side of the offense, but today they used the traingle on the strong side to space the Utah defense and prey upon Jerry Sloan's unwillingness to double. At that point it was just child's play and the ball just kept moving until the Lakers got an easy look at the basket that has become commonplace in this series
Late Game Pick and Roll Defense- Derek Fisher has a rough game until the tail end of the fourth quarter, especially on defense. Williams absolutely torched him and made him look more like 44 years old, instead of 34. At the end of the game though, when the Jazz went almost exclusively to isolation plays for WIlliams and more often, the pick and roll with Boozer, Fisher, with help from Gasol, played fantastic defense. Gasol used his length on the hedge to keep WIlliams from turning the corner and he bought time for Fish to get back into position. Meanwhile, Fish tied up Boozer on the screen so Boozer couldn't slip the screen. When you want to watch exactly how to defend the pick and roll, check out the job the Lakers did at the end of Game 2.
Trevor Ariza- Ariza only scored 13 in Game 2 as opposed to his 21 in Game 1, but you could argue he had an even bigger impact in the series' second contest. As mentioned earlier, Ariza had nine assists tonight so he kept the ball moving and found the right man. He used his length to pick up a couple of steal and came back to the boards for five rebounds on the night. Most notably though, Ariza got the late steal that led to a fastbreak with he and Odom to stretch the Lakers' lead in one of the game's biggest moments. Then, with 33.9 seconds the world's best closer gave the ball up to give Ariza a chance to seal up the ball game. Ariza answered the call by knocking down the three and wrapping the game up. When the game's best closer is willing to give up a shot to get you one in a late playoff game, you know you've arrived and Ariza certainly has.
Andrew Bynum- I know he's still working his way back from surgery, but he needs to be better. Bynum finished with 10 points, all against Jarron Collins in Collins' 13 minutes. Bynum stayed out of foul trouble to play 31 minutes, but he only had four rebounds. Yes, he did block four shots, but if Okur comes back and is anywhere near 100%, Bynum will be in trouble unless he elevates his game.
Turnovers- The Lakers cannot expect to turn the ball over 21 times and win many games. They got away with this one, but it's not something they should make a habit. In each of the Jazz' runs, the Lakers turned the ball over at a ridiculous rate so not only were they getting empty possessions, but they were giving up easy buckets on the other end. Had the Lakers simply ben able to hang on to the ball, they'd have won by 20. Now they head to Utah where it's really easy for one turnover to become three and four. Hold onto the ball!
The Crowd- Sure, it was nice when they cheered before the game or for a big dunk, but is it really too much to ask to stand up for important possessions or cheer because it's a big moment in the game? The Lakers' lead was down to three late in the game and the fans couldn't be bothered to stand and cheer. Maybe they need to be reminded that you're allowed to cheer without the videoboard telling you to or the rhythms for chants being played on the speakers.
Can We Please Bump A Cutter?- I mentioned this after our regular season finale versus the Jazz, in my series preview and to anyone that would listen for most of the season. We need to bump cutters. Cutters are able to run off of screens and anywhere on the court without being bumped diverted from their intended path against the Lakers and this has been a common theme. It doesn't take much effort to do it, but it gives trailing defenders the opportunity to catch up to their man when they come off of screens and it disrupts the rhythm of the offense. You don't think Williams knows exactly where every one of his players is at all times just by looking at a play develop? Bump a cutter just once and all of a sudden that cutter is getting to the open space just a split second later or getting there while his man is recovering. Come on Lakers, it's not overly physical, but it bring some toughness and effectiveness to your defense.
Kobe's Roaming- I know Kobe does this all of the time and for the most part it works extremely well, but it's time to adjust. Ronnie Brewer isn't going to beat Kobe because Kobe is roaming around the court, but the subsequent rotations will beat the defense and it has from time to time. Fact is, the Jazz have the ball in Williams' hand most of the time and he's not going to make many ill advised passes for Kobe to get his hands on. Kobe's roaming works well most of the time, but there are a select few point guards and offenses for which it won't work and Williams in Utah's is one of them.