After the Jazz lost to the Lakers in Game 1, Jerry Sloan came out and said that his squad wasn’t playing “nasty enough.”
Then they show up for Game 2 and get trounced in what was a virtual repeat in so many ways of Game 1. But did we see the same results in the second game because the Jazz lacked effort or because the Lakers are just that good?
“The one constant during Jerry Sloan’s career has been defense,” writes SI’s Arash Markazi. “He was one of the most feared defenders in the league as a player and instilled that same toughness into every team he’s coached. That is until this season. Even at 67, Sloan might be the nastiest defender on the Jazz bench if he wanted to slip on a uniform. At least he might have slowed down the Lakers, who once again jumped out to an early 20-point lead.”
As Markazi points out, the Jazz committed only one foul during the first quarter, as L.A. steamrolled out to a 41-27 lead. The Lakers went on to score 66 points in the first half without anyone on the Jazz standing up to L.A.’s offensive onslaught.
But if we’re going to point the finger at Utah for being soft defensively, then at least let’s be accurate about who is getting the blame on that squad. Their perimeter defenders were making life tough for cutters, playing them physically as they came through the lane. It was just that once they got into the lane, neither Carlos Boozer nor Jarron Collins could do much of anything to stop them. Pau Gasol had far too many easy baskets against C-Booz in one-on-one post matchups, and it felt like everyone was abusing Collins. Check out Gasol’s fight for an offensive board against Kirilenko at the 1:45 mark of the clip above. He didn’t have position, he just wanted it more than AK-47. Kobe‘s bucket against Kirilenko, Boozer and Paul Millsap at the 3:30 mark could actually make Jerry Sloan’s head explode. He drove all of those guys to the low block and no one really got up to contest his shot – they just let him get it off no problem.
Maybe this time, Jerry Sloan should single out the guys who aren’t giving top-notch effort – the guys who have to protect the paint.