Ross Geiger has literally been unable to sleep due to the Bucks-Hawks so I, Patrick McWeeny, will be spitting the knowledge on this Game 1 in Los Angeles. Enjoy.
Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers- 3:30 ET
Jerry Sloan has to HATE seeing Phil Jackson. He sure isn’t alone (Rick Adelman comes to mind), but he has no choice when it comes to his Round 2 counterpart. When Phil was with the Bulls, Jordan and company would rain on the Stockton-Malone parade; and Phil moved out west, the rain kept coming as Shaq-Kobe terrorized Salt Lake City. Sloan’s teams have had prodigious plights against Jackson’s teams in the playoffs and recent history with these editions of the Jazz and Lakers have been no different. However, Deron Williams is on a mission; a mission to prove that he is alone at the pinnacle of his point guard profession. Carlos Boozer is on a mission to prove he is worth 16 million dollars to someone this off-season, and has been balling accordingly (22 points, 13 rebounds on 58% shooting). The team is playing as a single unit, the role players are coming up big, and the Jazz look poised to make a deep run.
On the other side, you have the Lakers. Seasoned. Veterans. Balanced. Champions. The Lakers have been inconsistent to say the least this playoffs, but showed signs of resurgence toward the end of the Oklahoma City series. They were tied 2-2 and decided they were done with the young-gun Thunder, and promptly destroyed them in Game 5 and beat them in Game 6 in OKC to win the series. It looked effortless once they flipped that switch, but it took a while. Maybe they didn’t think the Thunder would show up, maybe they only play when they want, or maybe they knew what they were doing all along. Regardless, they silenced the Thunder just an hour or so before the Jazz dispatched the Nuggets to move on to the 2nd round.
The Deron Williams Crossover Mix
So where do we look to make a pick here? Do we say “Derek Fisher has a snowball’s chance in hell at guarding Deron Williams” and pick the Jazz? Do we say “Carlos Boozer never shows up when the Jazz play the Lakers” and pick the Lakers? Maybe we could go with “the Jazz are missing Andrei Kirilenko” but then you could easily counter with “but Andrew Bynum tore his meniscus again”. Personally, I say the Jazz have way too many matchup issues to win this one. Ok, I will give you Boozer and Gasol and call it fairly even, but there is no Kirilenko to guard Odom, no life-threatening issues with Derek Fisher on Wes Matthews (what up Marquette), and not a single member on the Jazz who will contain Kobe Bryant. What about the Lakers vs. Deron Williams you ask? Ron Artest has something for Deron Williams that Chauncey, Afflalo, and co. could not provide: strength, defensive savvy, AND quickness. Williams bullies most point guards into the lane and finishes smoothly. On most other guys, Williams uses his deceptive quickness to get the defender off-balance before popping the three or going to the hoop. Ron Artest knows every trick in the book. Deron will be harassed, bullied, turned over, and generally annoyed by the physical Artest. If we know anything about the Jazz it is that if Deron Williams does not have a good game, the Jazz will lose. Deron is too good to get punk’d all series long (even though they have Ashton Kutcher, um, I mean Kyle Korver), but for Game 1 in Los Angeles, you can call Ron, Weber Artest because he is going to get all up in his grill. On top of that, Gasol can step out with Boozer and Millsap while still providing size down low on the offensive end (something Denver’s big men could not really do. Boozer is not nearly the threat offensively when he has to defend continuously, and Gasol can do that. Mix that all together and what do you get?
Jazz 99, Lakers 109