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.