Lakers Look To Continue Dominace Against Utah
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Lakers vs. Jazz On KCAL 9 At 6 P.M.
SALK LAKE CITY (AP) – The Utah Jazz have lost all three home games against teams that made the playoffs last season. They’d really like to get their first such win against the team that has knocked them out of the postseason three straight years.
The Jazz face the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night for the first time since being swept in last season’s playoffs.
Los Angeles (13-2) has dominated Utah, winning 10 of 14 regular-season games over the past four seasons and going 12-3 in the postseason over the last three. The Jazz (11-5) were swept last season for the first time in 21 years as the Lakers cruised in the conference semifinals.
Utah is 5-3 at home, falling to Phoenix, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. The Jazz replaced last season’s leading scorer, Carlos Boozer, with Al Jefferson at power forward, and are eager to see how they match up against the two-time defending champions.
“It will be an exciting game for our team and the fans,” Jefferson said after a 105-87 win over New Orleans on Wednesday. “We’re a lot bigger this year and we got a great confidence boost tonight.”
The Jazz had no answers for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol during the Lakers’ sweep. Bryant averaged 32.0 points and 5.8 assists, and Gasol 23.5 points on 60.7 percent shooting and 14.5 rebounds.
Los Angeles also did a good job against Deron Williams in last season’s playoffs, limiting him to 38.7 percent shooting although he averaged a team-high 22.0 points. Williams had 26 points, 11 assists and a season-high five steals Wednesday.
The Lakers may have gotten a head start on their preparation for this game in their fifth straight win Tuesday, 98-91 over Chicago. The Bulls’ Derrick Rose had 30 points and eight assists but missed all four shots in the fourth quarter as Los Angeles did a better job of focusing on him.
“Sometimes we play that way with Deron Williams as well,” forward Lamar Odom said. “And he’s their first option and he has to go first.”
Utah has one of the NBA’s least productive benches, averaging 23.9 points. The reserves, though, helped key a 13-4 run to start the second quarter Wednesday for a 44-34 lead.
“They played big,” said Jefferson, who had 23 points and 10 rebounds. “They came in and boosted us up big-time. It’s amazing how well they’re playing.”
Los Angeles continues to get solid play from reserve Shannon Brown, who scored 21 points Tuesday and is averaging 15.0 over his last seven games.
“He’s got so much confidence right now,” coach Phil Jackson said. “We’re encouraging him to (shoot) when it feels right. Otherwise, he’s got such a great drive, teams have to play back off him because of his speed.”
The Lakers are averaging a league-best 111.5 points despite putting up their lowest total while shooting a season-low 39.5 percent against the Bulls. They are more encouraged by holding their last four opponents below 40 percent from the field.
“The more games we have like this, the more we understand how to play off each other defensively,” Bryant said.