I don't pretend that the authors here at Silver Screen and Roll are infallible. We are not always right, either individually or collectively. But, I do find it telling that every single one of the authors who voiced a prediction for this series between the Lakers and the Utah Jazz all said the same thing: Lakers in 5. Even more telling is the fact that every author on the site thought tonight's pending Game 3 was the one the Lakers would lose. We cited a variety of reasons across our previews: Utah's home court, the likelihood of seeing unfriendly referees, the possible return of Andrei Kirilenko. But, if I'm honest, the biggest reason I expected a game 3 L from the Lake Show tonight was because this is the game where they relent.
Let's face it, killer instinct is not the Lakers' forte. Over the past two seasons they have proven quite content to loaf about until the possibility of their season being in danger comes a bit closer to the forefront. Nobody around here likes it, and most of us don't appreciate it either, but it is what it is. It's the role the Lakers have chosen for themselves, and while the coach or stars may talk about fixing the problem, a lack of action shows just how much they care about it. So we as fans are resigned to the fact that, despite holding a significant and nigh uncounterable advantage against the Jazz inside, it's very likely the Lakers will "give" Utah one game by playing at less than full throttle. And that's OK, as much as we might not like it. In a world in which only the final result matters, only the judgment of who continues on and who ends their season counts, a game 3 loss probably won't amount to a hill of beans.
Except that now, it just might. Now, there is a real and tangible reason why the Lakers would want to end this series as quickly as possible, because if they look ahead (which is a dangerous proposition in itself), the Lakers will see the Phoenix Suns with one foot already in the Conference Finals. With Phoenix's shocking demolition of the Spurs, complete with 3-0 series lead and sweep potential very real, suddenly the Lakers are looking at the possibility of real punishment if they fail to take care of business in an economical fashion. Every opportunity wasted translates directly to more rest for their likely Conference Finals foe. The Suns aren't injured, but the Lakers are, and fresh Suns vs. tired Lakers is a bad scene.
Does that mean you'll see the Lakers come out with more of a Game 6 mentality (they do love winning on the road in Game 6, don't they) than a Game 3 mentality? Probably not. But at least they have some motivation for doing so, and it makes me think tonight's contest might at least be decent, instead of the inevitable blow out.
Right, how about we actually talk about the game now. As these playoff series go further on, they become more and more difficult to preview, because we're left repeating the same thing over and over. In this series, that means talking about the post, where the Lakers have a sizable advantage. The Lakers got a combined 50 points, 44 rebounds and 9 blocks from LO, Pau and Drew in the last game, and when you sprinkle a little Mamba on top, that is the recipe for a sound victory. Tonight, the Jazz will see AK47 return as expected. How much difference he'll make remains to be seen, but he will relegate CJ Miles to the bench and provide the bench unit with some more depth. Outside of Paul Millsapp, who's presence on the bench is Ginobli like in it's ridiculousness, Utah's bench provided nothing in game 2.
Another guy who didn't provide Utah with much in game 2? Deron Williams. It should tell you DWill's status in this game that 15 points and 9 assists is considered a terrible game, but Deron shot only 25% in Game 2, and failed to take proper advantage of the one weakness the Lakers have on the defensive end. If you think the Lakers will continue to contain Deron, I'd like some of what you are on. Look for him to breakout to tune of 30+ points and double digit assists.
The last remaining factor of interest is how this game is called. We've already seen how a frenzied crowd can impact free throw disparity in a game this postseason, and the Jazz home court may be second to one. I'm sure we'll all think the Lakers are getting screwed regardless of whether they actually are or not, but if the FT disparity is well past double digits, it should be more than enough for the Jazz to counter the Lakers' match-up advantages throughout the roster.
What else can we say about this game that hasn't already been said? Can AK47 go from not playing to full on Kobe-stopper mode? Seems unlikely, and unless he can, the Jazz still have no answer for the Rejuvenated Mamba. The Lakers still can't shoot from outside (sorry, make that Ron Artest still can't shoot from outside, and he's the only one doing most of the outside shooting). There are other obvious factors I could talk about, but this will mark the 25th time these teams have played each other over the past 3 years, and if you don't know what Jazz-Lakers is about by now, you probably stopped reading this piece before the jump.