As playoff games go, they don't come more simplistic than that. No, the Lakers didn't blast the Utah Jazz as was seen in the night's other contest, but in defeating the Jazz 111-103, the Lakers never lost control of the contest. The Jazz made the same push that saw them take a 4 point lead in Game 1, but the closest they ever got was to reduce the deficit to 6 points. Down the stretch, the Lakers played with such relaxation that they might as well have been taking a lovely stroll. This one was never in doubt.
The story of the night was the Laker bigs. Good freaking God, did they destroy the Jazz. Pau Gasol had 22 points on 11 shots, with 15 boards, but that wasn't even the story inside. Perhaps even more impressive, Andrew Bynum had 17 points on 9 shots, with 14 boards (and I believe something like 13 of those rebounds in the 1st half). The difference between Drew's comfort level on the court between Games 1 and 2 was incredible. In Game 1, every time Drew made a move or jumped for a ball, you could see him limping for the next 30 seconds. In Game 2, you could have told me he was 100%, and I'd believe you. He didn't look hampered in any way. He just raised the confidence of all of Laker Nation in one contest, because a well-performing Drew = a dominant Lakers team. Not to be outdone, Lamar Odom played one of his most effective games off the bench. 11 points on 4 shots, with another 15 boards to add to the grand total. He also added 3 blocks, which was the average as Drew added 4 and Pau added 2.
So, let's review. LO, Drew, and Pau combined for 50 points on 24 shots, 44 rebounds (as compared to the Jazz's 40 as a team) and 9 blocks. I feel safe saying that if the Lakers get that kind of production out of the combined minutes at the 4 and 5, there isn't a team in this league that can match them. For a team that can be so dominant inside, but far too often either ignores the post completely or fails to take advantage properly, this game was a breath of fresh air.
This isn't to say the Lakers played without flaw. The Jazz had waaaay too much success on the offensive glass (so did the Lakers, but this is the part where I talk about the negatives). 19 offensive boards for the Jazz, which is technically one more than L.A., but this is one of those instances where the stats lie to you. The Jazz may have out boarded the Lakers on the offensive end, 19-18, but the Jazz had nearly 50% more opportunities, due to the fact that they missed 58 shots, as compared to the Lakers missing only 39. For those of you too tired or lazy to divide the numbers yourselves, that's a 33% ORR for the Jazz and a 46% ORR for the Lakers. The Jazz's effort is too high for comfort, but in the grand scheme of things, it's tough to complain to loudly about the Lakers efforts on the boards.
The other areas of concern were turnovers and outside shooting. The Lakers played a relatively sloppy game, and their 20 turnovers (as compared to only 10 for the Jazz) is what kept this game from reaching the same laughable status as the opening game of this double-header. The Lakers will need to clean that up heading into Utah and beyond. As for the outside shooting, the Lakers were once again sub 25% from deep, highlighted by a 1-7 shooting line from deep for Ron Artest, a line that's becoming quite the norm these days. To his credit, Ron Ron actually had one of his best offensive games in months, because he made quite a few cuts and played his role in the triangle quite well, en route to going 6-10 for all shots taken from within 22 feet. Meanwhile, on the other side, the Jazz shot better from 3 pt range than they did from the field overall. The guards did not do a great job closing out on shooters, though the coaches deserve a fair share of the blame for insisting on a double team of the post no matter which player is involved. Memo to Phil Jackson: If CJ Miles is posting up Kobe Bryant, you might just want to let that one roll instead of watching Fisher show to the post and fail to recover as Deron Williams drains another open outside look.
The bench redeemed themselves somewhat, to the tune of 21 points. LO has already been discussed, but Farmar and Brown both played alright too. They were "defeated" by the Jazz bench on a technicality, since Paul Millsapp is technically a bench player, but if you rightfully swap Millsapp and Kyrylo Fesenko (who played 17 minutes to Millsapp's 35), the Jazz supporting players only provided 8 points on the night. One night after giving the Lakers 2nd unit heart burn, I'm not sure Ronnie Price even made it to Staples Center last night, so invisible was his presence in the game.
One other note, tonight's game was played at a much faster pace than what we've seen so far throughout the playoffs. Both teams seemed willing to push the ball up the court. Considering the Lakers high amount of turnovers, in comparison to the low number posted by Utah, the coaches might want to consider telling the Lakers to tone it down. Then again, if the bigs show up like this again, it won't matter. Game 3 isn't until Saturday, so we've got plenty of time to ruminate on this one. Enjoy.