Cold-blooded. Clutch. Closer. These are the three C’s that make up Kobe Bryant, but in the grand scheme that is the NBA Playoffs, Bryant rarely goes after the kill alone. Always lurking behind the deadly Mamba is one bulldog named Derek Fisher.
Phil Jackson noted that the Utah Jazz took away the Lakers’ post-game. Andrew Bynum’s only field goal attempt was blocked by Krylo Fresenko, and Pau Gasol did not score the bulk of his 14 points until the second half.
Tonight, the Lakers’ guards reminded the Jazz that they were more than just their big men. Tonight, the Lakers’ backcourt took care of their frontcourt, scoring 69 of the team’s 111 points.
The game began just as the Jazz could hope for, with the visiting team starting 1-7 and the Lakers offense reduced to a Kobe-centric style of play. The Lakers did not dominate from inside as they had in the first two games, settling for jumper after jumper while the Jazz scored from wherever they pleased; from downtown, from mid-range, from penetration, and because they attacked the paint, from the free throw line. At the end of the first quarter, however, the field goal percentage of both teams were nothing short of paltry. The Lakers were shooting a lowly 29%, which the Jazz were not better with 33%.
Before the first half came to a close, the Lakers had gotten to within four points after having been down by 13. Kobe’s 20 first half points sure helped, and Derek Fisher did a good job getting Deron Williams into foul trouble. Jazz’s point man had collected three with just over a minute left in the second quarter.
The Lakers played from behind at the onset, but by chipping away at the Jazz double-digit lead before halftime, they took advantage in the third quarter, laying the groundwork for what was a very competitive final 24 minutes. This game was destined to wind down to the very last second, with the Lakers and Jazz trading basket after basket, reaching tie after tie, and lead change after lead change. Leading each team with their offensive onslaught were the least likely players in Kyle Korver, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher.