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All hope WAS lost and the Lakers made sure of it

"All Hope Is Lost"  That was the title of an article run in the Salt Lake Tribune. An article Craig Sager went out of his way to make sure the Jazz heard about. Sure, they said all of the right things, and I'm sure they believed them somewhat. But it didn't matter. It was true. All hope was lost, as the Lakesr ripped the Jazz's hearts out tonight, 111-96, to complete the sweep and send Utah fishing for the third year in a row. In each year, the Lakers are dispatching the Jazz easier than the year before. It was a six game series two years ago, then five games last year. Just like their growing success versus the Jazz, the Lakers are getting better every game in these playoffs. This was a game the Jazz absolutely had to have and Kobe, Pau and company just imposed their will from the start. They jumped the Jazz late in the 1st Quarter then continued through to the 2nd, and just like that, it was done. The Lakers cruised, and I could have written this recap during the 2nd quarter.   

If you looked at the box score, nothing stands out. Except two things - points per possession, and turnovers. It's easy to find that killer instinct when they are knocking down shots again or scoring every possession, and taking care of the ball. The Lakers averaged 1.22 points per possession tonight, and I don't need to be Dexter Fishmore to tell you that's pretty damn good. They're scoring the ball like the team we remember from last year. The Lakers shot 45.8%, 35.3% on threes and 80.6% on free throws this game. The Jazz shot 45.7%, 25%, and 66.7% respectively. Utah actually outrebounded LA, 45-42, with each team having 13 offensive rebounds. Still, the Lakers took care of the ball, with only six turnovers, and they fouled the Jazz 7 fewer times. That led to 9 more FTA's (36-29), while making 11 more. That may show you the difference in margin, but watching this game, the Lakers hit shots and played D early while building the lead. I have a feeling these numbers evened out as the game progressed, but by the time it did, the damage was done.

This game was a heavy dose of Kobe and Pau. Both were absolutely spectacular and pretty much did what they wanted. Kobe directed the offense, made the defense collapse on his posting up, found open shooters and slashed his way to 32 points on 11-23 FGAs (10-12 FT). Pau had 33 points (12-18 FGAs, 9-11 FT), 14 rebounds and 2 blocks. If these two are playing like this, the Lakers shouldn't be beaten. Unfortunately, Drew was quiet on offense again, but everyone else hit some timely shots.

Although the Lakers jumped on the Jazz early, it just wouldn't be a game in this series without the Jazz making their inevitable run. This time, Utah made their push in the 3rd. Riding contributions from C.J. Miles and Paul Millsap, they made a run, cutting the lead to 6 a couple of times, before the Lakers quit toying with them and pushed the lead back to 13 to end the 3rd, and then finished them off in the final quarter.  

Still, throw the stats out. This game played out as every game in this series did. The Lakers were too big, too talented and too experienced. Wash, rinse, repeat. Kobe's too good, Pau's too skilled, Boozer's too short. Nothing changed. But the Lakers' killer instinct? Or should I say the supposed "lack of" one that was being questioned just after the Game 4 loss in the first round against Oklahoma City? That has seemed to change. These Lakers are ready. Previously, we might have seen this squad take a game off, then be content to win in Staples to close out. Not now. They wanted this game. You could sense it during the first few minutes, that even as Jazz were leading, it wouldn't be enough. The Jazz weren't playing with enough sense of urgency to stop the Lakers from overwhelming them because the Lakers could. To watch them completely dominate the Jazz in a closeout game - in Utah - and rip the Jazz's heart out was reaffirmation that this team is 100% back on the championship track. The Lakers knew it. The Jazz knew it. Just being good enough is no longer enough. They're putting it all together now, and I can't wait for the Suns (in what's going to feel like a month).











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