The Utah Jazz might be the best matchup the Lakers will see in the playoffs this year, and the team they should most easily defeat. But if the Bench Mob doesn't help win these games, then the Lakers may ultimately be defeating themselves.
This season the Lakers have beaten the Jazz without Andrew Bynum, without Pau Gasol and without Kobe Bryant. At this point, the Lakers are very familiar with both the Jazz's defense and offense, and the first game of the second-round matchup between these teams shows it. The Lakers were down by 3 late in the fourth quarter, and still managed to walk away with a 5 point win. It looked like the starters were able to assert themselves over the Jazz basically at will.
That isn't good enough, though.
If the sole goal was to beat the Jazz, being able to toy around with them and slap them down in the end would be fine. But the Lakers have their eyes on the title, and need a 11 more wins to get there. Kobe Bryant is a walking injury report, and Bynum is suffering his Spring shreeded knee. Sasha is probably done for the season, and Mbenga has been in and out of street clothes during the playoffs. Ending this series quickly to get some time to rest is obviously important. Not only is ending the series quickly important, but doing it while limiting the minutes of Kobe and Bynum is absolutely essential.
In order for that happen, the Laker Bench is really going to have to bring it (and I'm not talking about Odom, who plays nearly starter minutes anyway and is on the court for all the big moments as it is). In the first half of the game, it looked like the Bench Mob we saw at the end of the Oklahoma series was going to be a factor in this series as well. But, in the second half of the game, they ultimately put the Lakers in a real lynch. Not scoring a field goal in five minutes of the fourth quarter nearly blew a game the Lakers had controlled almost from the gun. This is totally unacceptable.
Nobody is asking for the bench to win the Lakers games, or shut the other team down. All anyone expects out of them is they hold their ground. Just a couple of field goals would've made all that drama at the end of the game completely unnecessary.
The Lakers are not going to go into Orlando or into Cleveland and win if they're banged up. And they aren't going to get healthy if the starters have to go 40 minutes a night for seven games a series. So please, Laker bench, just please be competitive for the 25 minutes asked of you a night, because this championship quest is as much on Brown and Farmar's shoulder as it is on the starters.