Why the Lakers are up 3-0 on the Jazz

Staff Writer: Jay Yap

The Lakers are on the brink of returning to the Western Conference Finals although not for the same reasons. Don’t get me wrong, Kobe Bryant is still THE reason why the Lakers are a series away from the finals but LA does not overly rely on him to win games anymore. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and of course Derek Fisher are taking on bigger roles and taking loads off Kobe’s shoulders.

Here are the reasons why the Lakers are up 3-0 on the Jazz:

Lamar Odom picked a great time to finally show up. He has been playing inspired basketball. His contribution does not show on the boxscore – he keeps balls alive by tipping rebounds that lead to extra offensive possessions, blocks interior shots inside, getting a lot of tip-ins and slowing down the Jazz frontcourt.

Gasol, Odom and Bynum simply overwhelm the the Jazz combination of Carlos Boozer, Paul Milsap and Kyrylo Fesenko. The Lakers are averaging 8 blocks a game. Finally the Lakers use their size advantage to its fullest. Every board is crashed aggressively by the Lakers’ front court.

Boozer and Deron Williams have been getting their usual numbers but have been receiving little help. Mehmet Okur’s ability to spread the floor and use size against Gasol is a large part of Utah’s woes.

The Lakers are using the triangle. Put the ball in the hands of Gasol or Bynum and the guards cut to the rim for easy baskets. Unlike in the Thunder series where Kobe tried to force a one-on-one match-up against Keven Durant. Kobe still has the tendency to force a ton of shots – no matter how flat they are.

Its surprising to see Williams have his way against Artest. Williams may be the best point guard in the NBA but the discrepancy of talent between the two teams is too great for him to overcome.

Kyle Korver caught fire in Game 3 at Salt Lake but Fisher’s heroics gave the Lakers the go-ahead basket with about 26 seconds left. Utah couldn’t capitalize on two great looks and the Lakers escaped. Andrei Kirilenko provided adequate defense and moral support but it just wasn’t enough.

The Lakers’ transition offense is much better compared to the Oklahoma City series. Gasol is getting quick baskets on long rebounds.

Without Kirilenko’s ability to protect the ring, Kobe is getting some easy lay-ups despite losing a considerable amount of hops and quickness.

The Jazz will survive Game 4 with an inspired performance but once the series shifts back to LA it over.

Can the defending champs pull off the sweep of the Utah Jazz?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

The last three seasons in the Western Conference have been dominated by the Los Angeles Lakers as they have made it all the way to the NBA Finals in two consecutive seasons and look like they could very well do it again this year.

Despite being the favorites to reach the NBA finals for the third straight season, it would be hard to argue that the Los Angeles Lakers haven’t struggled up until this point in the season. Even though Kobe Bryant and company have had their problems at times, when this team plays at a high level, there is no team better in the league as they just know how to get it done at the right time.

In the first round of playoffs, the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers got all they could handle from a very young and inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder squad. With Kevin Durant and company winning two games in their series with the Lakers, a lot of people started questioning whether or not the Lakers were worn out and had what it took to get back to the NBA finals once again.

Obviously getting beat twice in a playoff series against an unproven young team like the Thunder is something that is definitely going to send shockwaves throughout the league, it might’ve been exactly what the defending champs needed to get back that championship swagger they so desperately were trying to find.

Heading into the second round of the playoffs against the Utah Jazz, the Los Angeles Lakers faced another battle with an extremely talented point guard in Deron Williams. Even though some people say Steve Nash, Chris Paul or even Rajon Rondo might be the best point guard in the league today, it would be really hard to argue that Williams isn’t the best at his position as he just seems to get better with every passing game.

Williams was without a doubt the one thing on the Lakers’ minds coming into this series, after struggling against Russell Westbrook, but despite still having problems guarding him throughout the first three games, Kobe Bryant and company come out on top and now lead the series 3-0.

As it is against most teams in the league, the Lakers are just too long and dominant inside the paint for the Utah Jazz to compete with. The Jazz consistently get out rebounded and outmatched in virtually every aspect of the game even with players like Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and Paul Milsap.

Not only can the Jazz not contend the Lakers length, but Kobe Bryant has also come back to form and lit them up in all three games of the series. By scoring 30 or more points in each game, Kobe has especially his dominance once again. It took some time, but the Black Bamba is officially back and ready to contend for another title as the time off between games has really started help him heal up and get ready to play.

In game four, the Utah Jazz will be giving it all they have as they face elimination, but even if they do come out with a win, which I don’t think they will, the Lakers are inevitably going to advance to their third straight Western Conference finals.

NBA Playoff Previews – Western Conference

Staff Writer: Jeremiah Ira Yap

LA Lakers vs (8) Oklahoma City

Tough match-up for the Lakers. Oklahoma City’s talented young core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green will wreck havoc on the Lakers’ currently confused defense. There are two things intriguing about this series: Kobe Bryant, the Lakers best player, can be slowed down by the Thunders best defender, Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha has the right length to bother Kobe’s jumpers and the right speed to stay in front of him. I can hear Lakers fans saying, “Stopping Kobe in the playoffs? No way!”. Well, this isn’t 2006 Kobe where he was at his physical peak. Remember 2008? 2008 MVP Kobe was stopped by the Boston Celtics in the Finals, so there. Ha! Kobe was held to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting against the Thunder in the last time these two teams played against each other.

Kevin Durant, the Thunders best player, cannot be contained by the Lakers’ best defender, Ron Artest. Durant has averaged 25 points against the Lakers. Although I’m still giving Artest the benefit of a doubt that he can still shut down one of the league’s best scorers. For all we know Artest may be channeling his inner Dennis Rodman with the blonde ‘do he’s sporting

This series is dubbed as “Durant vs Kobe”, but the real key for the Lakers is Pau Gasol and for the Thunder it’s Russell Westbrook. Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka can’t guard Gasol. It’s up to the Lakers to keep feeding it to the 7-foot Spaniard in the post.

Phil Jackson’s reluctance to curb Derek Fisher’s minutes will be bad for the Lakers. Fisher can’t guard a stationary lamp post and Westbrook is one of the quickest players in the league. The Lakers medical team better give Fisher some goggles to protect his eyes from the dust Westbrook will be leaving in his path. Westbrook exploded against the Lakers in their last regular season game.

The Lakers will have their hands full and will need six down to the wire games to eliminate the Thunder.

Dallas Mavericks vs (7) San Antonio Spurs

The Mavs have the greatest chance of beating the Lakers. They are a complete team and versatile at every position. Their midseason acquisition of Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson have reaped nothing but benefits. On the other flip of the coin, San Antonio’s acquisition of Richard Jefferson has been highly disappointing. Jefferson has been unable to adjust accordingly to Coach Popovich’s system.

Some say never doubt the Spurs in the playoffs, but realistically, their window has already closed. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have been nagged by injuries and have not played a decent game after the All-Star break. Manu Ginobili has played great the past month but his age (32) and mileage make it hard to believe that he’s ready to take a lot of contact in the playoffs.

Dirk Nowitzki may have a tougher than expected series against the defense of Jefferson. Caron Butler and Jason Terry are the keys for the Mavs.

Dajuan Blair will have a big series for the Spurs, but Duncan and Parker need additional support from George Hill and Antonio McDyess. Don’t be surprised if the Mavericks win the series in five games. Stick a fork in the Spurs, they are done. It’s time to rebuild.

Phoenix Suns vs (6) Portland Trail Blazers

It’s a shame that Brandon Roy’s injury will greatly diminish the Blazers chances to advance to the second round. His presence would’ve made this an exciting series. Instead, we’ll see the Suns run Portland out the gym.

The Blazers don’t have the depth to keep up with the Suns up-and-down game. The return of Leandro Barbosa and Jason Richardson’s great play recently couldn’t come at a better time. The Blazers success will depend heavily on veterans Andre Miller and Marcus Camby, but their old legs will not be enough to outlast the Suns. Suns in five game.

Denver Nuggets vs (5) Utah Jazz

Carmelo Anthony must’ve been smiling on his way to the court for Game 1 against the Jazz. There was no one capable of guarding him after Andrei Kirilenko re-injured his calf strain. Anthony faced a combination of Kyle Korver, CJ Miles and Wesley Matthews and proceeded to drop 42 on the Jazz. The Jazz also had no answer for JR Smith, who scored 18 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets can heat up in a heartbeat and the Jazz found that out in Game 1.

Aside from losing Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur left the second quarter of Game 1 after re-injuring his Achilles’. Even if the Jazz lost to the Nuggets, I still believe this will be a long series. The Jazz have a better coach in Jerry Sloan. He will make the necessary adjustments for Utah. Unlike with the Nuggets, who will miss George Karl sooner rather than later.

Interesting series. The Jazz will come back to win in six games. Carmelo Anthony may be the best player in the series, but Smith’s streak shooting and inconsistency will be detrimental for the Nuggets.

NBA Playoff Preview: Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets

It would be hard to argue that the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers aren’t the team to beat in the Western Conference playoffs as they are stacked with some of the most talented players in the week and led by arguably the best all-around player in Kobe Bryant.

Even though everybody will be looking to the Los Angeles Lakers to repeat as NBA champs or at least come out of the Western Conference and advance to the NBA Finals, there are two teams in the West that might be able to give them a run for their money if given the chance, but only one of them be altogether first round as the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets will do battle.

It has been a somewhat up-and-down season for both of these Western Conference heavyweights as the Denver Nuggets started off incredibly hot the beginning of the season and Carmelo Anthony looked like a legitimate MVP candidate, but in the second half of the season the nuggets have really struggled to put a winner on the floor on a nightly basis and ultimately head into the playoffs as the fifth seed after being the second seed for the majority of the season.

The Utah Jazz on the other hand have had a completely different kind of seasons as they really struggled in the first half of the regular season and began to excel in the second half as both All-Star point guard Deron Williams and power forward Carlos Boozer started to come into their own.

Even though the jazz were in the running for the second seed in the Western Conference, they fell just short in the last couple weeks of the regular season and now have a daunting task ahead of them trying to figure out how to guard both Chauncey Billups and scoring machine Carmelo Anthony.

There were plenty of great duos around the league that extremely tough to guard as he could focus on one and the other one will hurt you like Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol with the defending champs, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili with the San Antonio Spurs or Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups with the Denver Nuggets.

Despite the Denver Nuggets dynamic duo being as tough to guard as any other duo around league, Utah Jazz also had their deadly one-two punch in Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer who will almost certainly try to establish themselves as forces to be reckoned with early in this playoff series.

One big deciding factor in this playoff series between the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz will be the health of Carlos boozer who will be coming into the first game of this series pretty banged up and nurses a strained muscle in his rib cage.

Initially, Boozer was a game time decision for the Utah Jazz, but just recently he has said he will be doing all he can to get on the floor.
Even though I believe that Boozer will fight through this injury and probably put up double-double performances, the result of him not being 100% will be what makes the Denver Nuggets the favorite to come out on top in this series and advance to the next round.

Series Prediction: 4-3 Denver Nuggets

Who is the dark horse in the Western Conference playoffs?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

Unlike the Eastern Conference, all eight teams in the Western Conference playoffs are legit and can compete with the best of the best in the NBA.

Obviously, the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers are the cream of the crop and teams like the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz aren’t far behind them, but there are definitely some teams in the West that are forces to be reckoned with like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns.

Personally, I don’t see any team in the West get the best of the defending NBA champs, even though they are limping into the playoffs, but there are a few teams to keep your eye on when the playoffs get underway.

In the Eastern conference, I believe there are few teams that could surprise some people like the Charlotte Bobcats and the Milwaukee Bucks, but in the West the one team to look out for more than any is the
Denver Nuggets.

At the beginning of this NBA regular season the Denver Nuggets arguably one of the hottest teams in the league as they got off to a quick start and right where they left off as one of the teams to beat in the West.

Unfortunately, despite put up one hell of a fight in the Western Conference finals last season, the Denver Nuggets went home early and the Los Angeles Lakers went on to another NBA title. This season the Nuggets looked prove that they are worthy of the title contender tag as they had the crosshairs set on the Lakers back, but in the second half of the season the nuggets have really started to struggle haven’t really been able to get back on track or to their new title contender status.

When the main reasons for their problems the second half of the season has been the absence of the future Hall of fame head coach George Karl who is battling cancer for the second time in his life.

Fortunately, the type of cancer they Karl is battling is something that he will be able to recover from and possibly recover fast enough for him to be on the sidelines for the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs if they can advance past the Utah Jazz.

Coming into their first-round matchup with the Utah Jazz the only real concern besides George Karl’s health is Kenyon Martin and whether or not his body will hold a throughout the playoffs. Martin is a big part of the Nuggets defense in arguably the backbone along with Chris “Birdman” Andersen.

If Kenyon Martin cannot stay healthy, I believe the Denver Nuggets will be in serious trouble in the defense of intensity will suffer.

The one thing that the Denver Nuggets might have going for them right now is that the Utah Jazz are also pretty banged up as they will be without possibly two key players in Andrei Kirilenko (out two weeks) and Carlos Boozer (game one game time decision) who is suffering from a strained muscle in his rib cage.

Even though the Utah Jazz will be extremely difficult to beat in a seven-game series in the first round, I believe Carmelo Anthony and company have what it takes and they will advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs.

What’s the key to the Thunder’s sudden resurgence?

Ryan Ward - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

The Thunder will make their first playoff appearance in its young existence. Oklahoma City is currently the sixth seed in the west but are locked in a three-way battle with the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs. Well, it doesn’t really matter what seed they will end up in because the Thunder are young, athletic and skilled, which makes them a very dangerous first-round opponent.

Obviously, their success can be attributed by the sudden explosion of Kevin Durant. Durant went from rising star last season to an MVP candidate. He will likely win his first scoring title this season. Forward Jeff Green is averaging 15 points a ball game and Russell Westbrook is having a career year. These three young guns are a big reason why the Thunder find themselves in the playoffs.

It’s their offense that gets a lot of recognition, but its actually the Thunder’s defense which makes them dangerous. The Thunder allows only 97.6 points a game, which is good enough for 11th in the league. There’s not one individual on Oklahoma City that is a great defender. But as a team the Thunder are a cohesive, effective defensive unit.

Against the highest scoring team in the league, the Phoenix Suns, the Thunder held them to their lowest scoring output in the second half – the Suns scored only 34 points. The young Oklahoma City Thunder also held the Suns under 100 points. Two-time MVP Steve Nash and All-star Amar’e Stoudemire were forced into committing five combined turnovers.

All you need to know about what the Thunder defense did to the Suns offense is this: the Suns shot 58 percent in first and second quarters. After that, Phoenix shot only 31 percent. Durant and Green had seven steals – amazing considering they are both forwards.

This years Thunder reminds us much of last seasons Portland Trail Blazers. Exciting crowd, budding superstar in Durant (in the Blazers case Brandon Roy), and a core group of young talented guys. All of this resulted in first-round fodder.

Durant, in particular, had no turnovers on his way to scoring 35 points. It’s been a joy to watch Durant this season. There are already talks that is he the second best player in the league – yes, in front of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard. This statement might be a reach considering Durant has played at this level for only one season. Plus, greatness can’t be measured during the season, it is seen where it counts – in the playoffs.

Durant and the Thunder will get the opportunity to prove exactly that as they make their first playoff appearance in history.

Are the Utah Jazz on the verge of passing the Denver Nuggets in the Northwest division?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

The Western Conference in the NBA is been arguably the toughest conference of the two over the last decade or so. Every single season it seems like the majority of the title contenders in the league, the West like the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers.

This season has been more of the same in the Western Conference as are plenty of teams that can contend for a title this year. Of course the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers are the front runners to come out of the West, but there are few teams this season that could give them a run for their money as they try repeat as champions.

The Dallas Mavericks are one the hottest teams in the NBA right now and as they have won 13 straight games and are slowly but surely becoming a serious threat to teams like the Lakers and the Denver Nuggets who have been the number two seed in the West basically all season long.

Ever since making the trade for Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood, the Dallas Mavericks have been on a roll and if they keep it up they could quite possibly compete with the defending champs for the top seed in the West heading into the playoffs. They are still a few games behind Kobe Bryant and company, but anything is possible in second half of the season and I won’t be surprised if we see the Mavs become the team to beat in the West come playoff time.

Despite the Dallas Mavericks becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference there are two other teams that could also compete in the conference in the second half of the season.

The Utah Jazz have been a team with many ups and downs in the West over the past few seasons as they have struggled to play consistently well and compete with the best teams in the conferences, but this season Deron Williams and company have played extremely well it looks these on their way to clinching the fourth seed in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs.

Last season the Utah Jazz really struggled heading into the postseason and were ultimately knocked out in the first round of the playoffs against the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. Even though in the past the jazz in the mail to give the Lakers a run for their money, especially on their home floor in Utah, this time around Kobe and company made quick work of the Jazz beating them in five games (4-1).

Even though the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers or the team to beat this season in the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz will face them in the first round like they did last season which was very unfortunate.

At the NBA trade deadline on February 18th, the Miami Heat made a final in an attempt to make a trade for All-Star caliber forward Carlos Boozer after they were unable to get Amare Stoudemire from the Phoenix Suns.

Fortunately for the Utah Jazz, they neglected to make the deal as they were playing their best basketball of the season at the time and figured that a move as drastic as that could have some serious effects on the outcome of the season.

As of right now, the Utah Jazz are battling the Denver Nuggets for the top spot in the Northwest division. Much like last season, the Nuggets are playing extremely well and will be tough to beat come playoff time, but the Jazz have a solid shot at overtaking the Nuggets in the division as they are only a couple games back of the division leading team led by Carmelo Anthony.

There are still plenty games left in their second half of the NBA regular season and anything can happen from now till playoff time, but I believe the Utah Jazz could pass Chauncey Billups and company if they can keep playing the way they have been in the first half of the season.

Possible NBA Playoff matchups in the Western Conference

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

With only a few weeks left in the NBA regular, the best teams in the league are gearing up for the playoffs and this year it should be as entertaining as ever as we will see some great matchups, especially in the Western Conferences!

Here is how the playoff matchups look in the West if the playoffs started today:

#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #8 Portland Trail Blazers

The defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers don’t have many weaknesses this season, but one thing they haven’t been able to do with much consistency is win at the Rose Garden against the Portland Trail Blazers.

With that being said, the Lakers would hate to face the Blazers in the first round of the playoffs because of their struggles at the Rose Garden.

As of right now, the Lakers and Blazers seem to be headed towards a first round matchup and that could spell trouble for Kobe Bryant and company.

Even though the Lakers do struggle in Portland they are the champs for a reason and they will prove it with yet another playoff series victory!

Series Prediction: 4-2 Lakers

#2 Denver Nuggets vs. #7 San Antonio Spurs

The Los Angeles Lakers are the best team in the Western Conference right now, but not far behind them are the Denver Nuggets led by scoring machine Carmelo Anthony and arguably the best floor general in the game in Chauncey Billups.

A lot of people thought that last season’s run to the Western Conference finals was a fluke and not many people gave them much of a chance of repeating their amazing run, but despite all the doubters, the Nuggets have been just as good as last season, if not better!

As of right now, the Nuggets look like they are headed to a first round matchup with the always competitive San Antonio Spurs led by four-time NBA champion forward Tim Duncan.

Even though the Spurs would have been a great matchup for the Nuggets in the past, this season Carmelo Anthony and company could quite possibly pull off the sweep as San Antonio has done nothing, but show their age this year.

Series Prediction: 4-1 Nuggets

#3 Dallas Mavericks vs. #6 Oklahoma City Thunder

The biggest surprise team in the NBA this season has been by far the play Oklahoma City Thunder who have gone from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best in just a single season.

The main reason for the Thunder’s success this season has been Kevin Durant playing out of his mind and lighting up the scoreboards on a nightly basis while leading his team to 40+ wins this year.

Not only has Durant completely turned around the franchise this season, but he has also become a legitimate MVP candidate up there with the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Thunder look like they will end up playing against the Dallas Mavericks who have also turned it around this season after making a blockbuster deal to bring in small forward Caron Butler.

Out of all the playoff series in the West, I believe this one will be the most competitive as the Thunder will be the underdog, but they will give Dirk Nowitzki and company a run for their money!

Series Prediction: 4-3 Mavericks

#4 Utah Jazz vs. #5 Phoenix Suns

No matter who wins this series between the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz, I believe neither one of these teams have what it takes to compete with the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers or the Denver Nuggets, but even with that being said, this should be a good series between pretty evenly matched teams.

The key to this matchup will be the battle of the superstars as the Jazz Deron Williams will go up against two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash and All-Star forward/center Amare Stoudemire will face off with Utah forward Carlos Boozer.

In my opinion, the Suns will come out on top just due to the experience factor with Nash leading the way. It could very easily go the other way, but in the end I believe Nash and Amare will be too much to handle.

Series Prediction: 4-2 Suns

Can the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns compete with the defending champs?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

Coming into this NBA season the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers look like they had a hell of a chance of competing for another NBA title in a repeat campaign. Not only was the team relatively intact at the beginning of the season, but their only real loss was not be able to sign free-agent Trevor Ariza in the off-season who chose to sign with the Houston Rockets instead.

Even though the defending champs were unable to sign quite possibly the most promising young player, they were able to get their hands on former defensive player of the year in Ron Artest. Despite Artest getting tossed from multiple games in the playoff series between the Lakers and Rockets last season because of scuffles with Kobe Bryant, the defensive minded forward embrace the idea of being able to compete for a championship with Kobe Bryant and company signed a contract in a heartbeat.

This free-agent signing was obviously nothing but good news for the Los Angeles Lakers been very bad news for all the teams in the Western Conference thought to be a contender season. Even though Ron Artest brought a much-needed toughness and defensive intensity, he hasn’t really panned out as a blockbuster free agent signing usually does.

Even though some people think that Ron Artest is a bust and probably not the best move the Lakers have made recently, the defending champs are still a number one seed in the Western Conference and will be just that headed into the playoffs for third consecutive season.

Before the season began, the Denver Nuggets and the San Antonio Spurs were thought to be the two teams in the Western Conference that can actually give the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers run for their money, but as we head to the end of the NBA regular season it seems as though two other teams in the West might be able to contend with Kobe and company much better than the Nuggets in the Spurs.

In the off-season, the Phoenix Suns made a trade which sent their starting center and former Laker great Shaquille O’Neal to the Cleveland Cavaliers for basically nothing in exchange. This move was basically a salary dump in Shaq was due a lot of money this season.

Most people believed that this move would do nothing more than destroy the Phoenix Suns chances of competing in whatever years are left and the Steve Nash era in Phoenix, but fortunately enough the franchise’s gotten back to their run and gun offense and as of right now are the number two seed in the Western Conference with a good chance of heading into the postseason just behind the Lakers.

Along with the Phoenix Suns, Jerry Sloan’s Utah Jazz have also come out of nowhere and Elton compete with the best of the best in the Western Conference. The beginning of the season the Jazz started out slow and were thought to make some major deals in the NBA trade deadline which would’ve included All-Star caliber forward Carlos Boozer.

Fortunately, the Jazz not making a move was the best move they could have made because they completely turned it around in the second half of the season and will compete with the Suns for the second seed in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs.

In the past, both of these teams have given Los Angeles Lakers trouble, but Kobe Bryant and company on another level now and in my opinion don’t have an equal in the Western Conference and should advance to the third straight NBA Finals.

Can the Utah Jazz upset the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

With the playoffs just around the corner in the NBA most people will be crowning LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers as the two teams destine to make it to the NBA Finals, but there are a few teams in both conferences that might be able to surprise some of the best of the best in the postseason.

The Orlando Magic will be the one team in the Eastern Conference that has the best of pulling off the upset against the Cleveland Cavaliers as the Cavs have trouble guarding Dwight Howard in the paint. This was no more apparent than it was in the Eastern Conference finals last season and it might happen again, but the most intriguing march to the NBA Finals will be in the Western Conference.

Almost every single team in the West that will advance to the playoffs this season has the ability to possibly end the Los Angeles Lakers repeat hopes. Obviously right now, Kobe Bryant and company are the team to beat and will almost certainly go far in the playoffs, but there are some teams to keep your eye on headed into the NBA postseason.

Unlike the Eastern Conference, the seeding in the Western Conference could quite possibly go down to the final game of the regular season as there are five teams in the West that could easily move up or down the standing from now to the start of the playoffs.

The one team the defending NBA champions don’t want to face in the playoffs is the Portland Trail Blazers as the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon has proven to be somewhat of the Achilles heel for the Los Angeles Lakers as they really struggled to beat the Blazers on their home floor.

Despite their struggles against the Blazers, if they do manage to face them in the first round, which is looking more and more likely, the Lakers will almost certainly advance to the second round as they are by far the better team right now.

Last season the Lakers faced the always dangerous Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs. Much like against the Blazers, the Lakers do have their fair share of struggles against the Jazz, but they made quick work of Deron Williams and company in just five games.

This season on the other hand might be a bit different as the Utah Jazz have been able to completely turnaround their franchise with All-Star caliber forward Carlos Boozer and superstar point guard Deron Williams leading way.

At the beginning of the season, it looked like the Utah Jazz would start to unravel as the team really struggled and the future of Boozer in a Jazz uniform was in serious doubt, but somehow, someway Utah was able to turn things around in the second half of the NBA season and are now sitting at the number two seed in the Western Conference just behind the conference leading Los Angeles Lakers.

Personally, I believe the Los Angeles Lakers are headed for their second straight NBA title as they always seem to turn it on in the playoffs, but I do believe the Utah Jazz can challenge them this time around as they always struggle trying guard Deron Williams who could very well be the key to the Jazz upsetting the Lakers in the playoffs.