April 17, 2009
After 1230 regular season games and whole lot of G, the 2009 NBA Playoffs are finally here. (/pumps fist a la Jordan) Now, you've already heard my crackpot predictions, and KD throws in his two cents below, but we also called upon a few team bloggin' experts to help set the first round table. Up next: Josh from Silver Screen and Roll and Basketball John from SLC Dunk breakdown the Los Angeles-Utah series.
Silver Screen and Roll: According to most, this should be a walk in the park for the Lakers. In truth, this has the potential to be an incredibly unpredictable series, as it's impossible to know which versions of both teams will show up.
Take the Lakers. By now, we've figured out that they're a "flip the switch" team. As Lakers fans, we're not trilled by it — we'd prefer consistency on defense — but we've accepted it as a reality. They have to be motivated to bring their best game, especially on defense. Against inferior teams like the Jazz, they often don't get motivated until their opponents have a solid lead halfway through the second quarter.
At the same time, one can only hope that the Playoffs would provide the kind of motivation necessary to coax the Lakers into bringing their A-game at all times, regardless of the opponent. I’m hoping the Lakers won’t see the Jazz as an opportunity to coast for just a few more games.
Meanwhile, the Jazz have been particularly bad lately ... but "on paper," they've got the pieces to legitimately challenge the Lakers on any given night. Carlos Boozer isn't fully healthy, and that's a problem for Utah. Memo's condition remains to be seen. But on a good night, if the Jazz are motivated, they could surprise the Lakers. And they will be motivated.
Memo's outside shooting could theoretically be a problem, but many are expecting Lamar Odom to see some time guarding him on the perimeter. If that's the case, Boozer will struggle against Bynum and Gasol in the post — their size has really bothered him in the past.
Deron Williams at point guard seems to be the only real advantage for the Jazz, and Lakers fans are excited to see Shannon Brown on him, instead of Farmar, of whom Williams has made easy work on a consistent basis. Williams will likely still get the best of that matchup, but Brown should be a defensive upgrade over Farmar. Williams should also expect to see plenty of double teams and traps, as the Lakers view him as the only offensive threat that they really need to worry about.
In the end, Utah will be scrappy, games will be heated and chippy, and the Lakers will probably emerge with more bruises than they'd like. But personally, I'm expecting the arrival of the Playoffs to be plenty of motivation for the Lakers — and if they're motivated, Utah hasn't got a prayer.
Lakers in 4.
SLC Dunk: Why are we even playing this series? It's almost a crime that the Jazz are making the Lakers break a sweat on the way to their inevitable appearance in the Finals. Couldn't we just simulate the series in "NBA Live" and save the Lakers any potential injuries? Maybe we could just run things thru AccuScore or follow Hollinger's predictions since that worked so well last year and skip the formalities.
In reality though, the Jazz are in trouble. Match-ups rule the NBA and the Lakers are the worst possible match-up for the Jazz. Kyle Korver stated that they're going to have to play the Lakers at some point if they're going to have a shot at the title, so it might as well be now. Truth be told, you don't want to have to face them until the Western Conference Finals because you hold out hope that they got upset along the way.
The Jazz almost had the perfect setup had they been able to land the 6th or 7th seed. They would have been in the opposite bracket of the Lakers and would have had a good chance at advancing against the likes of Denver and Houston.
Our sponsor for this series preview is Enzyte.
While they haven't looked like it recently, this is the same Jazz team that was supposed to challenge LA for the top spot in the West this season. Injuries, drama, and not being able to win on the road have changed all of that.
The Jazz have done this before two years ago when they stumbled into the playoffs and then turned it on against the Rockets. Granted, this Lakers team is not like that Rockets team. If you look at last year's series with the Lakers, the Jazz had a couple of chances to steal one from LA on the road but couldn't get over the top.
So do the Jazz have much of a shot this time around? Probably not. But Deron Williams will be fun to watch.
Lakers in 6.
Kelly Dwyer: Utah proved on Tuesday that it can't hang with the Lakers in Los Angeles, and I don't see much changing between now and the start of the playoffs. Sure, the Jazz will have four days of rest between games, huge news for the still out-of-it Carlos Boozer, but will that be nearly enough?
Utah's only hope entering this season was that the team's offense was going to be too much for the Lakers to handle, but instead of improving, injuries and iffy legs have actually led to a decrease in output from the Jazz. Meanwhile, the Lakers get better and better defensively, as the Jazz defense stays about the same. Utah takes a couple of games because they're that good, but they just don’t have the legs (Boozer, mainly) to pull off an upset.
Lakers in 6.
BDL's Western Conference Playoff Previews: