“I got three 7-footers standing back there,” Utah Jazz forward C.J. Miles says.  He also added, “So it’s like three trees standing in the middle of the lane.”

That Tree Trifecta of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom were never on the floor at the same time in today’s game, but as the Utah Jazz know all too well, any two-man combination of the trio is more than a handful.

Having to account for Kobe Bryant, who shot an efficient 12-19 for 31 points, is hard enough, but to have to stifle, or at the very least limit, the power of length that the Lakers own has been, and was today, too much for the Jazz.

The Lakers shot a blistering 79% from the field in the first quarter. The Jazz decided to defend Kobe 1 on 1 and they paid for it with him starting 5-5.

Ball movement and alert and active defense was key in their success early in the game. In one sequence, Pau Gasol blocked a shot, Lamar Odom rebounded and raced cross-court, bounce-passed to Bryant, who quickly touch-passed it back to Odom, who proceeded to fingeroll in an easy 2 points and the foul. He missed the free throw (a common downside to the Lakers’ stat sheet in the playoffs), but it brought the score to 15-24, Lakers. At that point in the first quarter, the Lakers had shot 12-14 from the field.

The rest of the first half was just as efficient, with the bench coming in and giving the Lakers an even greater lift. Luke Walton and Lamar Odom both attempted and converted on the team’s first two three-pointers to increase the home team’s lead to 14.

Bynum’s role with the second unit has been established of late, drawing in the defense inside, which opens up the perimeter to a slew of offensive options. Able to see over the two or three opponents hindering his space, he assisted on a wide open 18-footer from Jordan Farmar.

As Bryant stated in his post-game 6 interview last week, the two teams know each other’s offensive and defensive plays so well that no scouting reports were necessary to prepare for this second round match-up.

For the Lakers, the issue of keeping another talented point guard at bay is nothing new. Deron Williams, as tough as he is savvy, may have hurt his elbow in the last round against Denver, and he may have fallen on a sore shoulder twice in today’s game, but he still managed 24 points and 8 assists. Not accounting for Jazz’s other players, however, is something the Lakers need to plan for. C.J. Miles and rookie Wesley Matthews can be credited (along with the Laker bench) for their comeback in the fourth quarter.

The Jazz surged ahead in the fourth with both Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer sitting on the bench. It wasn’t as difficult a task, with the Lakers unable to score on a field goal until six minutes into the quarter. With the road team suddenly up by four, Bryant did his work, scoring 11 of the Lakers’ 23 fourth quarter points. Bryant shot over numerous outstretched Jazz hands (pun totally intended), drove to the basket with very little to no resistance (!) and when he missed, Odom was there to grab the offensive rebound and quick lay up.

In the end, the Lakers went on a 15-6 run in the last four minutes to get a 1-0 lead in the series.

In his post-game interview, Odom expressed frustration at the reserve unit’s disappointing play in the final quarter. He cited a failure to communicate as the greatest factor, but sounded determined to remedy the situation before the next game.

Phil Jackson stated that he wanted to give the bench players a chance to right their wrongs, to see if they could pull themselves out of their inefficiency so late in the game. With the Jazz suddenly down by only a point in the fourth, he had no choice but to pull them out, with the exception of Odom, in place of the starters. Jackson stated that he also gave Odom an opportunity to make up for his slightly disappointing play in the first half by getting into foul trouble. And did Odom ever make amends!

Bynum played a little under 25 minutes and admits that jumping and landing creates discomfort in his knee, but his presence on the floor, along with Gasol and Odom, will be the source of  the Jazz’s demise in this series. The trio combined for 42 points, 34 rebounds, and 7 blocks. If the Lakers continue to capitalize on their advantages (length and Kobe Bryant), improve on some extras (bench help and free throw shooting), this will be a very short series in favor of the defending champions.

Pre-game Thoughts: A 1-0 lead and Andrew Bynum still intact — that’s all we can ask for in this first game of the 2nd round.

Half-time Thoughts: 45-53 – The Lakers were dominant for the most of the first half, but they continue to let the Jazz work their way in. The home team should be up by 20 right now.

Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Lakers bench — they gave the team a boost in the first half, running the offense and playing defense to increase the lead to 14. In the second half, they allowed the Jazz to take the lead.

Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant both had efficient and dominating games, but tonight’s spotlight shines on Lamar Odom, for his hustle and determined play in the fourth quarter. Odom’s box score will never amount to the impact his presence has on the floor.

  • lilkobe24


  • Pac Div

    Fuk the Jazz!

  • siempreawesome

    Man, the bench didn’t show up again. I hate how shannon brown plays. He dribbles way too much on offense and doesn’t go with the triangle offense. The guy was freakin’ 1-5 from the field. If I remember correctly, he jacked up all those shots. Get this guy out of here.

  • Laker4 Life

    If the Lakers bench don’t start showing up in the playoffs the lakers will have no chance of repeating. Lakers might get through Utah because they have owned them, but if they play the Spurs or Suns in the conference finals the bench needs to step up big time. After the playoffs are finished in June Mitch should do something about the lakers bench and bring in someone that can play. The Lakers bench is a joke with crappy players like jordan, walton, morrison, powell, and sasha need to go.

    • papachango

      you forgot s.brown

      • Marwan Marzina

        Shannon, other than Lamar, is the only bench player who could explode and go off in a game. Although his offense is sporadic, there is no denying that he is a great bench player with alot of energy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thejahjah Josh Herrington

    The ShoutBox seemed to no understand how the lead got so close so late. The bench was the source of that occurrence. They were good earlier but plain ineffective in the 4th. Phil is not a dumb coach like some of the people on the ShoutBox said, he just used as much time as possible before bringing in the “starters” (Lamar was in). Good article Anna but this win just, somehow, doesn’t feel quite right. I don’t know, paranoia maybe.

    • LC09

      idk bout all that bro.. a win is a win..kobe n pau took it from them da hole game n ofcourse kobe jus str8 killed em in da end n LO was big too..da win feels like a great win..

      • http://www.facebook.com/thejahjah Josh Herrington

        Ahh well, I’m glad for the win and we have gotten this far with our bench playing like today. When I said “doesn’t feel quite right” I meant not as special as I thought it would be. You’re right, Pau and KObe played great plus a late addition of Lamar was needed. But yeah, a win is a win.

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      I know, Josh. If it was close the whole game, it would’ve felt more satisfying, like Game 6 against OKC. But we’ve got the benefit of so many guys who are able to step up and pick up their teammates. After such a great last two games by the bench, I’m sure they’ll hear their vets’ messages before the next game. And yes, I’m thinkin’ RING =)

      • Marwan Marzina

        You can’t think RING Anna, you KNOW RING =)

        • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

          You’re right, Marwan! WE KNOW RING! =)

  • Robert

    Recall that the playoffs is a ‘coaches’ game’, so trust that Phil will figure things out. In the meantime, the Lakers have 1 win, so that can’t hurt!
    Kobe seems to be doing ok the last 2 games (30+ points – yes, that’s GREAT to most, but ‘ok’ for Kobe haha!). So, I think he’s up for being ‘able’ to take over if necessary.
    So glad that the Lakers don’t have to put up with that ‘insane’ fast break play that they had to defend in the OKC series. They might run into that if the Suns top the Spurs, but I don’t think that will happen either. The Lakers can handle the Suns, but the Spurs will give them trouble.
    I’m also beginning to think that the Cavs are not invulnerable anymore. They have to fight for their wins (as well). They will be in for a good 2 series fight (the tough Celtics, and the Magic). It’s going to be tough for them. I think the Lakers are over the ‘most difficult’ part of the West – they have to step up for fast break, but can handle 1/2 court pretty well.

  • justdogm1

    so whats up with kobes face?does it mean he has gas?is he hearing lebron won anotherMVP?is he done with the jordan tongue hanging out thing?does he need a doctor?

    • 242LakerFan

      I swear I read this whole comment, but all that’s registering in my mind is “Troll troll troll troll troll. Lick LeBron’s nuts, troll troll. Troll troll troll. I need a tissue and some Jergens, troll troll troll.”
      How strange.

  • Robert

    Glad to see the Kobe Scowl is back! I’m beginning to get a scowl too – I am so sick of the Lamestream Media (read: ESPN) pandering to ‘his lowness’. They are so eager to ‘pass the torch’ to LeShame. And they are even saying Magic is mentioning ‘passing the torch’ (which I don’t believe). Magic, I know you’re trying to get Kobe pumped.
    Forget the friggin’ torch.
    Every year, Kobe finds a motivation to go out and ‘kill’. Last year it was ‘can’t win without Shaq’. This year the weenies are saying ‘Kobe is past his prime’. Here’s the motivation, Kobe-ster, to win another Championship. Actually, there is another: “LeBrick is now the ‘greatest player in basketball’ “.
    If MJ played almost an entire season with 3 broken fingers on his ‘shooting’ hand, and won his conference championship, he would be put on the ‘greatest who could possibly ever live in any sport’ pedestal. The lamestreamers completely ignored that. Jerk offs.
    Go Lakers. Go Kobe. Win a Championship for Truth, Justice, and the American way.