“People made Kobe mad. People owe him an apology,” Deron Williams said from his post-game podium visit. “I heard Chuck (Charles Barkley) say he was getting old, and he wouldn’t be able to do the same things he could do… and he pretty much did them.”
Chuck and everyone who doubted Kobe Bryant owes him an apology all right, especially after he scored 32 points on 11-23 shooting this evening, marking his fifth 30-point game in a row going back to Game 6 against Oklahoma City.
With a chance to sweep this series and enjoy a week’s worth of rest before the first game of the Western Conference Finals, you can bet Bryant didn’t entertain the idea of missing out on a possible week’s worth of rest before the next round. Thankfully, his teammates felt the same.
The Lakers looked determined to play the cleaning crew tonight. Sweep… Sweep… Sweep. Home game, away game — it hasn’t mattered to this Lakers team since they came out of their first round battle with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Since that Game 6 victory, they’ve been locked and loaded. The unfortunate victims this time around were the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz, despite a good start and various runs in this game and throughout the series, simply could not paint the Lakers into a corner.
“They’re just a better team. There’s no other way to put it,” Jazz point man, Deron Williams said. “If it’s not one guy beating you, it’s the next guy stepping up the next night and I think that’s what separates them.”
“They got everything you could want,” Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan said.
To win in the post-season, there is no use for singular glory and recognition. While it’s true that Bryant had a successful series against the Jazz, it took a team effort and the use of all of the Lakers’ multiple weapons.
In the first two games of the series, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom punished them with their mere length. They rebounded, blocked shots and scored on easy buckets by simply towering over the smaller Jazz player guarding them. In Game 3, the Lakers banked on their outside shooting and veteran savvy to win a close game.
In Game 4, with the smell of blood so potent, and the larger and more gratifying prey in the distance, the Lakers went in for the kill.
Gasol, a hunter in every way, constantly toyed with his man, Carlos Boozer. Gasol is much too long, much too skilled and much too quick for the Jazz forward, causing him to foul out of what may be his last game in a Utah Jazz uniform. Gasol’s line tonight read 33 points on 12-18 shooting, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and one turnover. They don’t get any more consistent than him.
With their own contributions to the game were the always dependable Derek Fisher, who scored 10 points, and the Laker bench chipped in 25 points of their own. Shannon Brown and Lamar Odom, channeling their inner D-Fish, hit timely 3-pointers when the Lakers’ lead had dwindled to single digits. Despite a rampant Jazz run in the third quarter, the Lakers never appeared to be in danger of losing, which says a lot about this veteran team.
The Lakers scored 111 points for the third straight game. They’ve eliminated the Jazz for the third straight season, winning in six games in 2008, then in five last season; and then sweeping them out of the NBA Playoffs this year. For the third straight year, they’ve also made it to the Western Conference Finals as the top seed.
Talk about consistency. Talk about poise and composure. Talk about the ability to respond to opportunity as well as adversity. Talk about another championship. We’re half-way there.
Pre-Game Thoughts: Again, hoping the Lakers watched the other game 4′s that were played before them (except the Cavaliers/Celtics series of course). Time to close it out.
Half-Time Thoughts: 58-41, Lakers with a 17-point lead and Gasol leading all scores with 17. You could say the Lakers are winning by a Pau.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Andrew Bynum — Is he feeling pain, or maybe just some mild discomfort in the knee? Either way, he has to learn to contribute to the game when he’s not scoring. When he’s not getting it on offensively, he appears to lose interest. 6 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks in a little over 25 minutes of play. D.J. Mbenga could have that stat line in less playing time.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Pau Gasol, on his fourth double-double in a row!