More important, the Jazz hope to even the Western Conference semifinals with the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night before the series moves to Salt Lake City for Games 3 and 4.
“If we can go out there and ruin their party a little bit by getting a victory, that helps us a lot,” Boozer said. “Kobe is the MVP. He deserves the trophy. We just want to win the game.”
The NBA made it official Tuesday—four days after the word was leaked— that Bryant had won his first MVP award. He’ll receive the trophy before Game 2 at Staples Center.
Bryant played like an MVP in the series opener, getting 38 points, six rebounds and seven assists in the Lakers’ 109-98 victory. He did much of his damage from the free throw line, making a franchise playoff-record 21 in 23 attempts.
“If we can keep him off the line, that would help us a lot,” Boozer said. “We’re going to do the best we can and try to give him different looks and try to be a little bit more aggressive with him, try to get the ball out of his hands.”
That’s not as simple as it might sound.
“I don’t think anybody has been able to guard Kobe,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “He’s just a great player. He can shoot the ball long range, he can shoot the 3-pointers way out past the 3-point line, he can put the ball on the floor. You come running at him and he catches you (by surprise). It’s hard to go double-team him and keep him from doing everything he wants to do.
“He has the ability to maybe go for a quarter or so and just try and stay involved, then all of a sudden from a scoring standpoint he can put 20 points on you real quick.”
Both teams believe they can play much better than they did in Game 1, and the numbers support that premise on both sides.
——The Jazz attempted 22 more shots than the Lakers, but finished at 37.9 percent from the field.
“We had some pretty good executed plays but couldn’t make shots,” Sloan said.
——The Jazz outrebounded the Lakers 58-41 including 25-8 on the offensive end.
“We didn’t rebound that well against Denver,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said, referring to the first-round sweep. “That’s one of the weaknesses of our team.”
——The Jazz committed 34 personal fouls, leading to the Lakers’ 38-of-46 effort from the line. Utah made 22 of 30 free throws.
“We’ve got to make some adjustments and we’re working on those today,” Boozer said before the Jazz flew to Los Angeles. “We learn from our mistakes, that’s one of the marks of this team. We’re able to see what we did wrong and correct it next time around.”
Speaking of numbers, the Jazz realize how difficult it is to come back from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. Only 13 of the 211 teams to lose the first two games have accomplished that feat.
“I’d love for us to go out there and get a win,” Boozer said. “I think our team needs that. For us to come back (to Utah) with a split would be much better than coming back here 0-2.”