The Jazz made it kind of interesting at the end there, but I agree with Charles Barkley on this one. I never thought the Lakers were going to lose. Not once. Not even for a millisecond. Here are my rapid-fire thoughts…
- Trevor Ariza is really starting to shoot the you know what out of the ball from downtown. He went 3-3 last night from long range. Looks like his persistence (often the first and last to leave the building) along with those UCLA alum shooting sessions with Reggie Miller are starting to pay off. Also, nine assists? Ariza is super unselfish and can really pass the ball. His biggest assist came when he masterfully handled that 2-on-1 break and got Lamar Odom an easy bucket late in the game. That was huge. And who can forget the late dagger three that put the game out of reach for good?
- Shannon Brown is arriving as a player before our very eyes. He’s starting to get that swagger, and like Reggie said last night, “the basket is starting to look like an ocean.” 12 points on 4-6 shooting and a +9 plus-minus score, best among all bench players. Personally, I think he’s are best bet to defend the Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams of the league, so I expect Phil Jackson to stick with the latest Zen Master’s pet.
- Speaking of Williams, we’ve got to get him under control in Utah if we want to get the brooms out and advance.
- 60% shooting as a team, 55% on triples. That’s some serious shooting right there.
- L.O. had 19 points and didn’t miss a shot until a late three misfired. That was his only miss of the night.
- Kobe Bryant’s rocker-step demo followed by a turn-around jumper in Corey Brewer’s eye was a thing of beauty. As was that driving shot he managed to loft over the outstretched arms of Andrei Kirilenko and that late jumped he stuck on the baseline. The Mamba’s definitely still got his late-game venom. He really turned up the offense there in the second half. Remember, Brewer can really defend. KB24 also dished out nine dimes.
- The NBA officially recorded Pau Gasol with two blocks. Yeah, OK, right. He had two on that one Jazz possession late in the game. Gasol played like a superstar on both ends, carrying the Lakers until Kobe took over down the stretch.
- When Kobe Bryant is your leading rebounder with six, your bigs have to hit the boards better. Then again, with both teams shooting as well as they did their were only so many possible rebounds.
- Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic continue to struggle. There was a stretch there where they both did two or three dumb things and I was yelling at Phil to pull ‘em. I’m thinking Sasha is out there for his shooting alone, and that Farmar and the bench are going to be fast friends.
- I’m also thinking Farmar might get moved this offseason. One thought is that the Lakers could try to get Jamal Tinsley on the cheap this summer. He’s a traditional point man who’s pretty much guaranteed to be on his best behavior after losing a year of his career. Another positive is that year off could have allowed him to become as healthy as he’s been since he was at Iowa State. The Pacers are desperate to move Tinsley and would trade him for an autographed photo of Sun Yue at this point.
- Paul Milsap is the West coast Jeff Foster. He’s an extremely underrated role player.
- Andrew Bynum had four blocks and definitely made his presence felt on the defensive end. That’s what the Lakers will need from him to bring a title back to L.A.
Overall, a win is a win. Domination to the point of free tacos is always nice, but winning 16 games any way you can is all that matters in the end. Now, the Jazz have to win four out of five to win the series. Good luck with that, Utah.