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News » Series with Lakers was unavoidable

Series with Lakers was unavoidable

Series with Lakers was unavoidable
The Jazz got just the matchup they wanted, against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Only it's going to be in the first round of the 2008-09 NBA playoffs, not the Western Conference finals. Blame a late-season collapse in which Utah dropped seven and its last nine games ? not to mention a boatload of injuries, terrifically selfish play, a decided lack of trust among teammates and a rather defiant and defeatist attitude when it came to buckling down on defense ?

for that. So now the eighth-seeded Jazz have the top-seeded Lakers ? who, truth be told, they much rather would have like to have avoided for at least another round or two ? in an opening-round best-of-seven series that gets underway this weekend in L.A. "Obviously, we'd want to play them some other time down the road," shooting guard Kyle Korver said. "But you've got to play them sometime; you might as well play them first." "You have to go through them sometime," point guard Deron Williams added, "if you want to get to the Finals." The Jazz were locked into a 1-8 meeting following their loss to Lakers in Los Angeles on Tuesday, the final game of the regular season for both teams. Had L.A. laid down and lost, it perhaps could have taken its chances with Dallas or New Orleans ? and not a Utah team that got to the conference finals just two years ago. But the Lakers instead made the statement that they were more than willing to take on Williams and the Jazz. Understandably, too, according to at least one. "When you think you're the best team," Williams said, "you don't care who you play." Answering the call, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan made it abundantly clearly after Tuesday's loss, is no small task ? especially against a franchise that has in mind much-loftier goals than merely advancing from the first round. "Everybody has to play well," Sloan said. "We can't come out there and try to compete with two or three guys, and guys getting lost on defense. "We're gonna have to compete awfully hard to play against them," he added. "We know what they've done, and what they're looking for. We're just a little dent in the road, as far as they're concerned." Avenging last season's NBA Finals loss to the Boston Celtics, specifically, is what the Lakers have in mind. "They're a terrific team," Sloan said. "They pass the ball. They do about everything you'd ask a team to do. And they've got guys that can make big shots, guys that just know how to play Basketball, make the game look simple. "Obviously we're going to have play with a great deal more intensity," he added. "We're going to have to be a better defensive team, try to get up and play people a little bit more than what did (Tuesday)." The Lakers' win Tuesday was its ninth straight in L.A. over the Jazz, including three games in a second-round playoff series that eliminated Utah last postseason. "They're very comfortable playing against us," Sloan said, "and obviously should be." With that stark reality in mind, the Jazz somehow must convince themselves they indeed can overcome. But how? "We have to match their intensity, play better defense and knock down shots," shooting guard Ronnie Brewer said. "C.J. Miles (dislocated finger) is going to come back, and that's going to be helpful. Mehmet (Okur, strained hamstring) is going to be back, so hopefully with a full roster we can compete." Even for a team that lost 147 man games this season to health issues, though, it's not just a couple extra bodies that will do the trick. Even if both Miles and Okur are starters. Rather, the Jazz seem to be most in need of attitude readjustment. "If teams continue to shoot 55, 50 percent, against us, we're not gonna win. We've got to try to get some stops," Williams said. "That's how we're gonna win this series. The little stuff. Hustling. Making extra passes. Helping out. Staying together. Staying together as a team." "We have to play together, and we have to play hard," Korver added. "We're a system team. When we try to do out there and do it one-on-one, we're all right ? but we're not great. We have players here who fit a system, and when we run that system well we can be good. But it we get away from that, that's when we get in trouble." Sloan can only hope the Jazz keep that in mind once the series gets under way. "If it's about themselves," he said, "then we're gonna be in trouble. "We've got to lay it all out there," the Jazz coach added, "and we have not had a lot of that this year." E-mail: NBA playoffs, first round (1) Lakers vs. (8) Jazz Utah at Los Angeles, Sunday, 1 p.m., ABC Utah at Los Angeles, Tuesday, 8:30 p.m., TNT Los Angeles at Utah, Thursday, 8:30 p.m., TNT Los Angeles at Utah, Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN Utah at Los Angeles, April 27* Los Angeles at Utah, April 30* Utah at Los Angeles, May 2* *if necessary

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Added: April 17, 2009


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