The Utah Jazz showed a lot of heart in Game 3, clawing their way back from a 13-point second half deficit to win the game on Deron Williams’ fade away jumper with just a few ticks remaining. The Jazz will try to even the series Saturday, April 25th at 9:00 pm EST on ESPN, but they won’t have the odds on their side. The Utah Jazz are listed as a 4-point underdog with the total set at 209.
Utah got off to a strong start in Game 3 and led by 8 points at the half before getting outscored 33-17 in the third quarter, but the Jazz never said die and outscored the Lakers 28-18 in the fourth to win the game. The key to the win was holding Kobe Bryant to just 18 points on 5-of-24 shooting from the field. Ronnie Brewer did a spectacular job of defending Bryant. He was physical with him and was able to force him into lots of bad shots. The Jazz did a good job of rotating in their half court defense when they decided to double team Kobe to get the ball out of his hands also. Making Kobe work hard for his points will be a critical to evening this series. The other key to the win was the dominant play of Carlos Boozer. Boozer’s 23-point, 22-rebound performance can’t be a one and done deal. The Jazz need him to continue to pound the boards and to get Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum into foul trouble. He gives up a lot of length to both Gasol and Bynum, but he has the quickness and power to blow by them or go through them to get to the basket.
The Lakers were hoping for the sweep to get Kobe Bryant and some of the other veteran players some extra rest. While they have to be disappointed about blowing a commanding third quarter lead, they can’t feel too terrible about getting beat on a last second shot when you consider how poorly their superstar shot from the field. If Kobe shoots 25 percent from the field instead of 21 percent, and Gasol doesn’t shoot 40 percent from the free throw line, the Lakers are playing for the sweep Saturday night. Game 4 could be an even bigger challenge as now the Jazz have gained some confidence. The best news for the Lakers is that you can count on Kobe to bounce back strong. He settled for a lot of jump shots in Game 3, and I expect him to take the ball much more aggressively to the basket in Game 4. Defensively, the key to winning lies with cutting down the penetration of Deron Williams and keeping Boozer off the boards. The last thing the Lakers are going to want to do is to get out in transition more often. If you notice, they scored 113 and 119 points respectively in their two home wins and were held to just 86 points in Game 3. A game in the 100’s favors the Lakers, but one under the century mark gives the Jazz a fighting chance.
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