Even though my second round NBA Playoff Predictions are going a lot better than my first round predictions, I’m going to refrain from outright predicting Game 2 of the Western Conference Playoff series between the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Why? Because the winner of this game isn’t as important as whether or not we will actually have a competitive series on our hands. And we’ll know precisely that by the end of Game 2 tomorrow night.
Game 2 is a must win for the Utah Jazz.
Yes, that’s right. A must win.
Anything short of a win puts an end to this series. This Utah Jazz team is too beaten up, too injured, and too short-handed to come back from a 2-0 deficit against a team as talented and tall as the Los Angeles Lakers.
Can you envision the Utah Jazz defending their home court in all three games of this series?
Can you even see them defending their home court in Games 3 and 4 alone?
I can’t—not even against a Lakers team that is about as lackluster and wreck loose as a championship-caliber team can be.
Thus, this series is over if the Jazz don’t win Game 2. The question is how can they get a win in Los Angeles, when they haven’t been able to do that in the previous seasons when these two teams have met up in the playoffs?
Deron Williams has to an absolute beast if the Jazz are going to win this game tonight. Sure, he came through with 25 points and 8 assists in Game 1, but that isn’t enough. Those numbers are good enough to get you in the Hall of Fame, but they won’t beat the Lakers. Williams needs to return to his first round averages of 25+ and 10+ a night if the Jazz are going to win Game 2 and remain competitive in this series.
Carlos Boozer is the other mitigating factor. He too had a good outing in Game 1, going for 18 points and 12 rebounds. He even shot 9 of 17 against the lengthy front court of the Los Angeles Lakers, showing that he can play amongst the trees if need be. But he will have to fly among the trees if the Jazz are going to win this series. His 18 points, while respectable, are not going to get it done. Deron Williams cannot lead this team as a distributor and point scorer if the Jazz are going to win games. That means Boozer will have to put in 30-point games for the Jazz to be successful. If Boozer doesn’t come up with 3-0 in Game 2, the Jazz can kiss success goodbye.
Kyle Korver is going to have to be a much bigger presence in this series. His 7 points in Game 1 will not get it done. The only way for the Jazz to beat a more talented, athletic and deeper Lakers team is for them to “out-basketball” the Lakers. What does that mean? It means they have to beat the Lakers at aspects of the game that don’t require athleticism. Case and point: shooting. The Jazz have to out shoot the Lakers—there’s no questioning that. At the end of the day, if the Lakers have better, or even similar, outside shooting percentages to that of the Jazz, the Lakers will win every game this series. However, if Korver can show up, hit his three-pointers and long-twos, and make that long interior of the Lakers have to step out on screens and pick-n-rolls, then the Jazz can easily steal Game 2, and make this series interesting.
Lastly, and this is a big “if,” but if Andrei Kirilenko can come back and contribute anything to this Jazz team, Utah would greatly appreciate. To take it a step further, the Jazz can come back and win this series if Kirilenko has 20 minutes of Kirilenko-level basketball in him for the rest of the series. Word on the street is that Kirilenko practiced today, and that he could be a game time decision for Game 2. Kirilenko’s defense, rebounding and outside shooting are all aspects of his game that could alleviate much of what I have presented as issues the Jazz must overcome. A healthy Kirilenko can defend Kobe, box out Gasol, and attack Lamar Odom on the offensive end. Those are things no player for Jazz can do right, and being able to have that presence on the floor, even if it is just for 20 minutes a game, could be the difference between winning and losing for the Utah Jazz.
[[This article originally apeared on thesportswatchers]]