In an effort to give you the full coverage you so desparately desire and richly deserve, we've teamed up with SB Nation's Utah Jazz blog, SLC Dunk to give you coverage of this series from both sides. Here's what their lead blogger, Basketball John, had to say in response to 5 questions I provided him. The answers came before game 1 so they wouldn't be tainted by that result, but we didn't have room for them as part of the preview coverage.
SSR: Deron Williams is clearly the most important player on the Utah Jazz. How serious is his injury, and how much do you expect it to hinder him in the upcoming series?
Basketball John: We haven't heard much but in last night's press conference he said he was okay. He's been playing banged up all year so I don't expect this to affect him much. He's officially listed as a game-time decision, but I don't think there's any way he doesn't play.
SSR: Besides Deron, the Jazz are dealing with some other serious injuries as well. Memo Okur is already out for the playoffs. Does AK47 have a chance of coming back for this series?
Basketball John: Andrei won't play in game 1 based on what's been reported. He could be back for game 2 but if not then then definitely in game 3.
SSR: Assuming no AK and no Memo, how does Utah plan to counter Los Angeles' size and talent advantage inside?
Basketball John:Even with Memo and AK we've always struggled with LA's length. We'll see a lot more playing time from Kyrylo Fesenko in this series because of the injuries. He's had a good game against the Lakers in the past. He played well for a bit against the Nuggets but had the worst game of the series in game 6 and didn't play much.
He'll be a big body though against Bynum and Gasol. I don't know how effective he will be but he could be a factor.
SSR: Utah is a strong offensive team, but on two occasions this season (the 6 pt 4th quarter, the Lakers victory in Utah w/o Kobe), the Lakers have been seemingly able to really force the Jazz offense to struggle. Do you think those results are indicative of L.A. being a bad match-up for the Jazz, or were those games the result of just an off night (or a really off quarter)?
If you look at the Utah/LA games, the Jazz always have one quarter that just does them in. Usually that poor quarter comes in the first or second where the Lakers just put them away early. Then the Jazz come back and make a game of it but it's always too little, too late. There's no question the Lakers are a poor match-up and the biggest reason why we didn't want to see LA until the WCF. The Jazz have had a chance to win late in the season to avoid that but haven't been able to pull it off.
It's more apparent on the road but it always seems like the Lakers go on a bit of a run, usually including a Gasol AND-1, a Fisher three, and a Lamar Odom takeover, and the Jazz are done mentally. They try to answer with big play, normally jumpers, of their own and shoot themselves out of it. They start forcing shots until they realize too late that they should have just kept playing the Jazz offense.
SSR: With all of Utah's injuries, and the Lakers' relative health, what percentage chance do you give Utah of winning the series? What's your series prediction?
I'm pretty pessimistic about the series. The Jazz don't win in LA. The Lakers have shown they can win in Utah. I see it going 6 or 7 games with LA going on unfortunately. For the Jazz to have a chance, I think they have to go into game and shock LA. Forgive me for using a LOST reference, but they have to strike (speak) first. If they let LA win game 1, we're back into the same old, same old and the Lakers will have the upper-hand.
They have to overturn a decade's worth of futility at the Staples Center and show that they're not intimidated by the Lakers. They also have to have 48 minutes of good basketball to win. If they go for a 6-7 minute stretch without scoring, that's going to cost them the game. If the Jazz are going to win the series, it's going to have to be in 6 games. They're going to have to steal game 1 and win out at home. How likely is that? Maybe it's still a long-shot, but the Jazz have been surprising at times this year.
SSR: Thanks John, should be a great series.
[Editor's Note: SLC Dunk's post involving my answers to his questions can be found here. Go have a gander, but as always, play nice.]