Pau Gasol has repeatedly gotten the better of Carlos Boozer in this series.
After Game 1 of the Jazz-Lakers series, Utah played like it had a chance to win the series against the defending champions. After Game 2, I’m more resigned to the fact that Utah is dramatically outmatched.
As I mentioned in my previous post about the series, the Jazz nearly came away with the win in Game 1, but shaky defense down the stretch game the Lakers a decisive win. In the second contest, the Jazz’s flaws were more evident. And it starts and ends with the front-court play.
Los Angeles features two seven-foot front-court players in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The sixth man off the bench, Lamar Odom, is a versatile 6’10″. On the contrary, the two best paint players for Utah — Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap — are both 6’9″. With Mehmet Okur out for the remainder of the season, the Jazz must resort to giving heavy minutes to Kyrylo Fesenko and Kosta Koufos at center, who are lacking in talent, to be blunt.
So what’s the result when you pit your two 6’9″ quality big men and seven-foot bench warmers against Gasol, Bynum, Odom? Chaos and embarrassment.
In Game 2, the one true offensive bright spot for Utah was Millsap: 26 points, 11 boards, 4 assists, and 3 steals on 10-17 shooting. Boozer added 20 point and 12 rebounds, but he shot a mediocre 9-21.
Fesenko and Koufos combined to score 4 points on 2-9 shooting and grab 3 rebounds. To say the least, that’s not going to cut it.
These stats don’t tell the whole story. Further accentuating the shortcomings of Utah’s front-court production is the fact that the Lakers mustered 13 blocks in Game 2, and 9 of those came thanks to Gasol, Bynum, and Odom.
Further, still, is Utah’s inability to defend in the paint.
Gasol put up 22 points on 7-11 shooting and secured 5 offensive rebounds. Bynum added 17 points on a very solid 7-9 shooting performance. He also grabbed 14 rebounds (13 of which came in the first half), including 4 on the offensive glass. Finally, Odom put up 11 points on perfect 4-4 shooting and a whopping 15 boards (4 of which came on offense).
Clearly, Boozer and Millsap give up too much height to contend with the Lakers’ bigs near the basket. Fesenko and Koufos just aren’t good enough. Honestly, Utah can kiss this series goodbye if it continues to let the Lakers absolutely own the offensive glass and shoot such high percentages.
Kobe Bryant’s 30 points (10-22 FG, 10-11 FT), 5 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 blocks are the least of the Jazz’s worries as the series heads to Utah. With Andrei Kirilenko’s return, Kobe’s damage can be mitigated. It will take some creative thinking on Jerry Sloan’s part, however, to quell the onslaught of the Lakers big men for the rest of the series.