NBA / May 3, 2010 / 1:22 pm

The Reason Utah will (or won’t) beat the Lakers

C.J. Miles (photo. NBA)

On the eve of the NBA playoffs, I listed 10 players I saw as the biggest X-factors to determine this year’s championship. On purpose, I didn’t include anybody from the Utah Jazz. Truth is, I didn’t think they had a realistic shot at the ‘chip.

I was wrong. After knocking off the higher-seeded Nuggets in the first round and giving the Lakers all they could handle before losing down the stretch in yesterday’s Game 1 of the conference semifinals, the Jazz are as much a competitor as anybody else still alive in the postseason.

With two regular starters (Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur) out with injuries, the Jazz are a team full of X-factors. Almost everybody who gets significant minutes has to play at their best if Utah is going to go all the way, from Deron Williams down to Kyrylo Fesenko. But for the most part, you know what you’re going to get from D-Will, Boozer, Millsap and Korver. Same for Okur and AK-47 should they get healthy.

The one hit-or-miss X-factor whose play could swing this series and define Utah’s realistic title hopes is C.J. Miles. If you’re unfamiliar with his game, consider C.J. the toned-down version of J.R. Smith. His highs aren’t as high, his lows aren’t as low, but he represents the identity of the Jazz — a solid player and good defender made better under Jerry Sloan‘s tutelage — as much as J.R. represents Denver’s crew of tatted and streaky gunners.

Miles put up 16 points (4-12 FG, 7-8 FT) yesterday against the Lakers. He made a couple big shots in the fourth quarter and he missed a couple, but that he’s even on the court and taking those shots is a sign of progress in itself for the fifth-year pro who came to Utah from Skyline High School in Dallas. Not too long ago the 23-year-old was in danger of becoming another high school-to-pros bust; now he’s more confident on offense and a reliable defender in crunch time. In the Nuggets series C.J. was used against Carmelo Anthony, and yesterday he took turns with Wes Matthews guarding Kobe Bryant. In the fourth quarter Miles also took a charge from Derek Fisher that was crucial in Utah’s late comeback attempt.

If not J.R. Smith, you could also look at Miles like Utah’s version of Trevor Ariza in L.A. last year. A timely three-pointer here and there, some game-changing defensive plays, and Miles could be an undercover MVP in the Jazz’s playoff run. If he plays near his potential over the next few games, Utah could knock off the Lakers. If not, they’ll be going home soon.

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  • dlee9

    No Wes Matthews love, Dime?

  • A.R.

    The Jazz aren’t beating the Lakers…just forget about it right now. They’ll put up a fight and make it interesting…but it ain’t happening.

  • realist

    agree with A.R., I don’t think anyone can honestly say they expect Utah to come out victorious of this series–

  • realist

    **other than die hard Utah fans, lol

  • hahns

    haha i like how realist is being realistic

    but the point of the post is that utah was being doubted from day 1 of the playoffs- so they might surprise some ppl, even though “realistically” its a long shot

    love dwil though- best pg in the league!

  • JH

    Miles is more JR Smith than Trevor Ariza…Ariza took better shots and was more opportunistic than CJ Miles.

    Until AK47 comes back and proves he is at full strength…I agree that Miles is the X-factor for the Jazz.

  • boomshakalaka

    damn, C.J. Miles is fugly

  • calvin brodus

    id take cj miles over jr any fucking day.

  • karizmatic

    Glad you gave us the option to choose an alternative to JR Smith, I see where you were going with it and why you would say that, but it doesn’t really stand up, CJ Miles isn’t a dominant enough force to really compare as a poster boy for Utah, maybe in a couple of years. He’s more Ariza than Smith.

  • Ahoapap

    I’m a “die hard” Jazz fan, and if our championship dreams reside in CJ Miles, I’ll stop watching now. Ugh.

  • the cynic

    the injury to Okur actually helps the Jazz; but the jazz are still too small to beat the lakers and it showed in the final minutes of the game

  • Dave

    until Boozer starts to make an effort on defense it won’t matter what anyone else does because the Lakers will take it right to Boozer and they will score at will. Boozer’s defensive effort in my opinion is the X factor for the Jazz v the Lakers. With it they have a minor chance of beating the Lakers, without it they have no chance.

  • brado

    Sick of people claiming that Okur’s injury actually helped the Jazz! WTF? Losing a starter and thinning your bench helps? I don’t think so. Yeah, bench players have stepped up for them – but who’s to say they wouldn’t have if Okur was still in the lineup.

    With small market teams everybody always has to find an excuse for why they win, it can’t be because they’ve got game.

    Utah beat Denver purely off D-Will & J-Sloan. Those two inspired and led that team to a first round victory. The pressure is on them to continue to inspire others if they hope to have a chance against LA.

  • bola

    we are bowing down to thy great laker team, the people of utah has spokenth. haha