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Kobe Bryant and the Lakers won three of the four meetings with the Jazz this season.
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Lakers look to slow red-hot Williams, banged-up Jazz

By Scott Howard-Cooper,
Posted May 1 2010 12:59PM

Kobe Bryant, asked about the impending matchup, said, "No scouting report necessary. For either team. We know their offense inside out, they know our offense inside out, as well as the defense. We've played each other so many times. Including preseason. We're just extremely, extremely familiar with each other."

(1) L.A. Lakers vs. (5) Utah Jazz
:: Series Matchup Page ::

105.9 Off. Eff. 107.8
101.1 Def. Eff. 102.9
95.2 Pace 96.0
101.7 PPG 104.2
97.0 Opp. PPG 98.9
44.3 RPG 42.2
42.2 Opp. RPG 39.2
21.1 APG 26.7
21.9 Opp. APG 19.9
.457 FG% .491
.446 Opp. FG% .449
.341 3PT% .364
.328 Opp. 3PT% .354
.765 FT% .741

105.0 Off. Eff. 92.3
94.9 Pace 94.9
99.3 PPG 88.0
44.5 RPG 41.0
20.5 APG 21.5
.456 FG% .433
.286 3PT% .270
.767 FT% .663
Dec. 9: Lakers 101, Jazz 77
Dec. 12: Jazz 102, Lakers 94
Feb. 10: Lakers 96, Jazz 81
April 2: Lakers 106, Jazz 92

Bryant, 22.7 PPG Williams, 17.3
Gasol, 16.8 RPG Boozer, 12.0
Gasol, 5.5 APG Williams, 9.8
Gasol, .614 FG% Kirilenko, .571
Farmar, .545 3PT% Matthews, .417

Derek Fisher
Deron Williams

Kobe Bryant
Wesley Matthews

Ron Artest
Andrei Kirilenko

Lamar Odom
Carlos Boozer

Pau Gasol
Kyrylo Fesenko

Andrew Bynum (injured), C
Jordan Farmar, PG
Shannon Brown, G
D.J. Mbenga, C
C.J. Miles, F
Paul Millsap, F
Kyle Korver, G/F
Kosta Koufos, C

He is completely, completely correct.

The Lakers and Jazz played in the 2009 first round (L.A. victory), the 2008 conference semifinals (L.A. victory) and had four reunions during the 2009-10 regular season (L.A. 3-1). And just maybe the coaches, players and offenses for each side are pretty established. Welcome to the No Surprise series.

Five quick questions

1. What's with Ron Artest? Like there's ever been an answer for that.

2. What's with Ron Artest basketball wise? Playing well on defense, but zero impact on offense when the Lakers can use one.

3. How much is home-court advantage worth? Everything. In each of the five postseason meetings between the long-time rivals, the team that has had it has won.

4. Who is the hottest player in the series? Forget the series. Deron Williams is easily one of the hottest players in the entire league.

5. Should the Lakers put away the ear plugs yet? No. Fans in Oklahoma City became a star of the show, but EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City is no library.

When the Lakers have the ball

Their offense struggled often against the Thunder, a good defensive team but not so good that Oklahoma City should have been able to take away the inside game and perimeter game with regularity. The Lakers did not hit shots from the outside and too often failed to capitalize on a size advantage to pound the ball inside.

This is their second chance. The injury to Mehmet Okur has forced the Jazz to mostly play small, with Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap getting the bulk of the minutes in a two-power forward alignment even as Kyrylo Fesenko starts at center. Expect L.A. to try to again make Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum a focus of the game plan.

When the Jazz have the ball

Williams will take possession, charge down court and dare a Laker, any Laker, to stop him. No great surprise, right? Williams is playing great, L.A. is vulnerable to fast point guards, Williams is fast and strong, and welcome to Utah's biggest edge.

In typical Jazz fashion, they are shooting very well and executing the pick-and-roll. They can score from all over, meaning the Lakers have to go from the up-tempo approach of Oklahoma City in the first round to the second round and an opponent that can out-precision them.

In the clutch

Close finishes will be especially great because both teams have two options -- Bryant and Gasol for the Lakers, Williams and Boozer for the Jazz. End-of-game timeouts will be real brain sessions.

Wild cards

As much as the Lakers obviously benefit from extended breaks in the schedule -- there is a three-day rest stop between Game 2 in Los Angeles and Game 3 in Salt Lake City -- the Jazz actually face a greater threat of running on fumes. Because of injuries to Okur and Andrei Kirilenko, Utah is basically playing seven guys. L.A. getting any push from its bench becomes a major plus.

That means you, Lamar Odom, Mr. 41.7 percent in the first round. Coach Phil Jackson called him out as MIA.

The pick

What could have been a great series with the Jazz at full strength, especially while putting Kirilenko on Bryant as part of a second-half resurgence for AK-47, still has the chance to be very good. Utah is resilient. Utah just doesn't have the bodies to stay with the Lakers unless L.A. starts handing them countless opportunities. Which is extremely, extremely possible. Lakers in 7.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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