Lakers' 111-110 Game 3 victory over Utah Jazz feature strong outside shooting and late-game plays
With the Lakers holding a one-point lead against the Utah Jazz with only 6.1 seconds remaining, the to-do list appeared rather simple. Successfully inbound the ball, don't commit a turnover and knock down a pair of free throws.
The Lakers never achieved the latter two items because they couldn't successfully master the first. Lakers forward Ron Artest threw the inbounds pass wide left of Derek Fisher, who drew contact from guard Wesley Matthews but without the whistle. Lakers forward Pau Gasol reached for the ball, but Jazz forward Kyle Korver swiped it away and secured possession with 4.4 seconds remaining.
The Lakers bore frustrated looks. Fisher questioned officials about the non-call. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wore a solemn expression. And Gasol stood with a blank stare while the team huddled. Sure, the Lakers, at least temporarily, appeared angry with the execution, but this game featured many instances where the team responded well to adversity. This final play would be one of them.
On this play, Artest guarded Utah's Deron Williams up top after he received an inbounds pass. Though Williams' quick feet created separation for a 22-foot- jump shot, Artest's firm positioning denied Williams a chance to drive the lane. Artest contested the shot, which rimmed out. Gasol aimed to grab the rebound, but Matthews snuck around him. He tipped the ball, but the shot hit off the back rim just as time expired.
The Lakers walked away with a 111-110 Game 3 victory Saturday over the Utah Jazz in a contest that featured an equally strong effort from both teams, eight lead changes and plenty of adjustments. With the Lakers managing to be on the winning end, they have a commanding 3-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals, and can officially secure the series with a Game 4 victory on Monday.
History suggests the Lakers should be in good shape. No NBA team has ever managed to come back from a 3-0 deficit, and with how the Lakers prevailed in the final moments, Utah likely feels more deflated than inspired. They have to win four consecutive games to stay alive, but, instead, the Lakers will likely eliminate Utah for the third consecutive postseason. Meanwhile, the Lakers will likely grow from this experience, knowing they prevailed in a game that featured many challenges.
Despite the Lakers owning an overwhelming rebound advantage (101-78) and paint presence (118-100) in the first two games, the Lakers' frontline became pretty much a non-factor in Game 3. Gasol had only 14 points on six of 12 shooting after averaging 23.5 points the first two contests. Also, Lakers center Andrew Bynum scored zero points and attempted only one shot in 20 minutes, after collecting 17 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots in Game 2. The Lakers didn't give the frontline enough touches, but it wasn't because of a lack of effort. The Jazz double teamed the post and forced the frontline to kick the ball out as soon as the Lakers made an entry pass.
But like in the final minutes of the game, the Lakers adjusted. Bryant provided his usual heroics with his 35 points on 13 of 24 points marking the fourth consecutive game he dropped at least 30 points. Fisher continued his playoff resurgence with 20 points on a seven of 13 clip, including a key three-pointer that gave the Lakers a 109-108 lead with 28 seconds remaining. Artest appeared on a mission, finishing with 20 points on seven of 13 shooting and four of seven from three-point range two days after lamenting via Twitter Phil Jackson's criticism on Artest's 16.7% clip from three-point range this postseason. The two have since patched things up, and at least for one game, Artest patched up his shooting. And after the bench struggled securing fourth-quarter leads in the first two games against Utah, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar combined for 14 points in the middle of the second quarter to cut the Jazz's lead to seven.Those efforts only previewed how the Lakers found multiple contributions in the fourth quarter, while Korver lit up for 23 points off nine of 10 shooting. Artest grabbed a pass along the baseline from Gasol and moved back for a corner three-pointer, cutting the Jazz's lead to 88-87 with 9:37 remaining. At the 6:01 mark, Bryant's quick first step allowed him to drive past Matthews through the lane with ease and closed the gap to 98-95. Lakers forward Lamar Odom, who had a modest eight points on two of six shooting along with eight rebounds, received a dump off pass from Fisher at the top of the key and then pulled up for a three-pointer, giving the Lakers a 101-100 lead with 2:23 remaining.
Then with the Lakers trailing, 106-103, with under a minute remaining, Bryant pulled up for a three at the top of the key after Fisher set a screen on Matthews. Soon after, Fisher returned the favor. Bryant drove the lane and drew help from Williams, leaving Fisher open at the far end of the perimeter. His trey gave the Lakers a 109-108 lead with 28 seconds remaining, and added another clutch shot in Lakers lore. And after Bryant made two free throws to give the team a 111-108 edge with seven seconds left, Fisher correctly fouled Williams before he attempted a shot, eventually yielding to a 111-110 score with 6.1 seconds remaining.
That set up the Lakers inbounds pass that went awry. But as they did for the entire game, the Lakers didn't fold. And the effort ensured a likely ticket to the Western Conference Finals.
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Photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) and guard Kobe Bryant (background) react along with Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer as the buzzer sounds to end Game 3 on Saturday night in Utah. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.
Photo: Utah guard C.J. Miles fouls Lakers guard Kobe Bryant on a drive down the lane in the first half of Game 3 on Saturday night. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.