Welcome to our first ever NBA Playoff Blogger Faceoff, where we pit our favorite team-related bloggers against each other to let them tell why the teams they represent will win their first round matchups. We gave them no set format, no style guide – we just told them to do their thing. Check it out and join in the debate in the comments section.
Next up: 1.Los Angeles vs. 8. Utah
WHY THE LAKERS WILL WIN
Written by Kurt of ForumBlueandGold
The Lakers will win handily because the NBA is all about the matchups, and the matchups almost all favor LA. That starts inside the paint — Andrew Bynum is too strong for Mehmet Okur and Pau Gasol can shoot over a hobbled Carlos Boozer all night long. Look for the Lakers to pound the ball inside early and often until the Jazz adjust.
Then there is that little issue of Kobe Bryant — the Jazz have no matchup for him. Really, nobody does, but Ronnie Brewer doesn’t even slow him. Kobe averaged 31 a game this season against Utah and that was after playing facilitator in the last game and barely shooting (for him, anyway).
The only place the Jazz really have an advantage is at point guard — Deron Williams is a beast. A perfect fit for Jerry Sloan’s offense. Last year in the playoffs Williams abused Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar, but this year the Lakers have better options. Look for Trevor Ariza, Shannon Brown and maybe even flashes of defense-first Olympics Kobe to get some time on Williams. The Jazz will give the Lakers a steady diet of high pick and roll but the Lakers should be able to keep it in check.
Another problem for the Jazz is they foul a lot, and the Lakers are a good foul shooting team. For the Jazz to beat the Lakers, they really need to curb that habit. And have their front-line players grow a few inches. Both of which seem pretty unlikely at this point.
WHY THE JAZZ WILL WIN
Written by Andrew Katz, Dime Magazine
The Jazz have a virtually impossible task before them. But, as Chris Berman would say, “That’s why they play the game.” If the Jazz can pull this monumental upset, a number of things will have to fall in their favor.
(1) They need Carlos Boozer to play like an All-Star. Over the last two months, he hasn’t totally been himself. Averaging about 15 points and 10 boards per game since the beginning of March, Boozer’s best night out was a 25-point, 12-board showing against Golden State. Even if he didn’t have a big day when the Jazz and Lakers faced off last Tuesday, he can definitely put in work against Pau Gasol. More on that in a second…
(2) Offensively, the Jazz need to draw the Lakers’ bigs away from the basket and make them defend. They have the best recipe for that in the League – if Bynum guards Memo, he’s going to have to play him 20 feet from the basket at times. That makes L.A.’s interior defense more vulnerable, and could leave them susceptible to offensive rebounding from Paul Millsap. If Phil doesn’t want Bynum on Memo, he’ll have to deal with countless pick-and-rolls with C-Booz popping out to the top of the key. That pick-and-pop could end up being the Jazz’s secret weapon if Boozer is shooting well.
(3) This one is the trickiest of all: how to deal with L.A.’s offense. Boston carved out something of a game plan in the Finals last year, revolving around the “Make Kobe‘s life tough, but keep him off the line” philosophy. Ronnie Brewer is one of the few people in the League who can stay with Bryant athletically. The biggest concern is what happens when KB gets into the second layer of the D. If the Jazz can rotate immaculately and play awesome team D, they have a shot to slow the Lake Show down.