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Lakers reveal various trends in previous Game 3 losses to Utah

May 7, 2010 |  4:30 pm


The Lakers made it well aware they remember vividly what's happened the past two seasons when they visited Utah for Game 3 in the 2008 Western Conference semifinals and in the first round of the 2009 NBA playoffs. After the Lakers opened both series with a 2-0 lead, the Jazz responded in quick fashion at Energy Solutions Arena, including a Lakers 104-99 loss on May 9, 2008 and a 88-86 loss on April 23, 2009. In the end, the outcome didn't really matter. The Lakers won both series and I predicted the Lakers would win in five this season.

But the Lakers obviously don't want to assume that, and they remember very well how their Game 3 loss to Oklahoma City quickly led to another loss and tied the series up at 2-2. Surely, the Lakers prevailed with taking the next two games, but it didn't come without a fight. And as the Lakers prepare for Game 3 Saturday against the Jazz, they specifically recalled what led to their previous Game 3 losses to Utah.

After the video, I detail on the next thread what stood out in the Lakers' two Game 3 losses, a pattern the Lakers pledge won't happen again.

Improved play from Utah

Utah presented a much different effort in its 104-99 Game 3 victory in the 2008 Western Conference semifinals than it showcased in the first two games. Carlos Boozer had 27 points and 20 rebounds after a nearly invisible first two games. That effort included a time where he scored eight points in a span of two minutes and 43 seconds. It wasn't at all surprising, considering the rowdy crowd at Energy Solutions Arena stood on its feet the entire game, an instrument that partly led to a 37-4 regular-season home record. Of course, the Lakers had handed the Jazz one of those losses without the services of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

The Jazz also featured better execution in their 88-86 Game 3 victory in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Even without injured center Mehmet Okur (strained hamstring), the Jazz overcame the odds. Utah Coach Jerry Sloan made a change in the lineup, putting Andrei Kirilenko in place of Kyle Korver at small forward in hopes that it would provide a defensive spark.

The tactic worked as the Jazz held the Lakers to 36.8% shooting, which put Utah in a position to win the game in the final minutes. The Jazz took advantage of the opportunity with Deron Williams scoring on a 14-footer with 2.2 seconds left, preventing a 3-0 deficit.

Lakers' execution falters

The Lakers had gone undefeated in for nearly a month during the 2008 season, putting together a 10-game winning streak and six consecutive playoff victories. But that all came to a crashing end in their 104-99 Game 3 loss to Utah in the Western Conference semifinals.

It had all the characteristics of what the Lakers shouldn't do. They committed 18 turnovers and made five of 23 three-point shots (21.7%). Lakers forward Pau Gasol had what The Times' Mike Bresnahan said was "arguably his most ineffective game with the Lakers" because of a stat line that included 12 points, six rebounds, five turnovers and what Bresnahan described as "numerous appeals to referees in a distracted 40 minutes." And the team misplayed several sequences in the game's final moments.

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant slipped and lost the play with 2:53 remaining. Later on, Lakers forward Luke Walton committed a turnover after Gasol won a jump ball with 14 seconds left and the Lakers trailing, 103-99. And the game ended with Gasol passing the ball to nobody and drifting out of bounds.

The next year, the Lakers faltered again in the final minutes, and it went beyond allowing Williams to hit the game-winning shot. Bryant went only five of 24 from the field and missed a 28-foot three-pointer attempt as time expired. Lakers center Andrew Bynum collected more points (four) than fouls (five) in only seven minutes. And the Lakers trailed 26-17 in the first quarter after shooting only six of 25 (24%). Their poor marksmanship of 38% served as a stark contrast to the 57.8% mark they averaged in the series' first two games.

--Mark Medina

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Credit: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant tries to get off a shot past Utah guard Wesley Matthews, left, and forward C.J. Miles during the first half in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on Tuesday. Photo: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times.