Well, what can you do? The series is pretty much over, the season is pretty much over, and Jerry Sloan will have to wait yet another year for his elusive NBA Championship.
The Utah Jazz have played too well against a far superior LA Lakers team who have no apparent weaknesses (as Fisher proved the critics wrong with 3-pt bombs all night long) to be trailing 3-0 right now, but that is the reality of it. Coming close just doesn’t cut it. You need to pull out victories when the opportunities present themselves, and the Jazz just haven’t done that in this series.
But rather than blaming the Jazz for shrinking in the big spot, I am going to give the Lakers a ton of credit for playing like the champions that they are. There is nobody who hates the Lakers, Kobe, and Gasol more than I do, but I sure as heck respect them and all of the little things that they do to secure victories time and time again.
If you look at the series from a broad perspective, you would say that the Lakers flat out own the Jazz through 3 games. However, if you take a deep look inside the series, and you see how the series got to within one game of a Lakers sweep, you will see that the difference is a rebound here and a basket there. That’s it. A couple of possessions turn out differently, and we could legitimately be talking about a possible Jazz sweep. I’m not even kidding. (Did you see how close Wes Matthews tip-in was at the end of Game 3?!!)
The reason we are talking about a possible Lakers sweep instead is because of the championship pedigree and mental toughness that this team has. They have been there before, and they realize the importance of every possession. They get the little extras that separate the good teams from the great teams. They get an offensive rebound or hit a 3-pointer when they need to, and it comes down to those key plays that truly decide the series.
Of course it helps that the Lakers have more talent on their team than anybody I’ve ever seen, and they can get tremendous production out of any one of their players on any given night. Andrew Bynum’s 0-1 scoreless performance proves that better than anything in my opinion. How can the Lakers get fewer points from their starting center than Kyrylo Fesenko and still win a game on the road in SLC?
How about a pair of 20-point performances by Derek Fisher and Ron Artest, who were the supposed weak links on the offensive side of the ball for the Lakers? No need to mention Kobe and his 35 in front of his pops Jelly Bean. We already expect that from the Mamba in a big game.
At the end of the day, the Lakers are the best team in the league. Period. Despite this, the shorthanded, 2nd round-filled Utah Jazz pushed them in each and every game with a legitimate chance to win every game in the 4th quarter. Obviously, you don’t want to stoop so low where you have to be proud of moral victories, but when you are facing a powerhouse like the Lakers without 2 key players (Memo and AK (for 2 games)), moral victories are all you can really hope for.
The Lakers have proven that when the clock reads zeros at the end of regulation, they will be the team with the most points no matter what happens throughout the game. It may look close, but the Lakers never panic. They are so comfortable when the game can go either way, and they never come up empty-handed when they need a crucial basket at the end of the game. Can something like that be stopped or regulated? I don’t think so. It’s either you have it or you don’t, and the Lakers clearly do.
Now I’m not going to expect the Jazz to come back in this series, as no NBA team has ever come back from 3-0, but I do expect the Jazz to give it their all in Game 4 in front of their home crowd. They have played a magnificent season, and their fans have been through so much. Although it feels eerily similar to the prior 2 seasons, there was just something a little more magical about this team that made me and a lot of others believe that this year would be different. I guess the Lakers don’t respect magic too much.
Orlando, you better watch out!
Game Ball: Kyle Korver.
Korver shot lights out in Game 3 as he scored 23 points on 9-10 shooting. Oh, and if you were looking at his one miss as the possible reason why the Jazz lost the game, don’t. The Jazz got an offensive rebound on the possession and Deron Williams hit a 3. Some late bozo plays by Boozer, on the other hand, can definitely be mentioned, though. (2 missed free throws and 2 possible dunks that came up with nothing. Plus, too many non-box-outs on Gasol. I love you, Booze, but come on!)