Utah Jazz struggling to handle L.A.'s bigs
Does 0-2 deficit have Utah frustrated, unconfident?
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — It came across fairly fuzzy, more wavy and shaky than warm and cuddly.
Still — from his seat in the small Staples Center interview room in the late hours of Tuesday night after the Los Angeles Lakers had beaten the Jazz for the second time in as many outings this week in the second-round NBA playoff series — Carlos Boozer tried as hard as he could to exude confidence.
"We get a chance to go home," Boozer said, "and if we can win the first game, we have a chance to win the second game and tie it up and come back here.
"That's our main focus — is to try to get Game 3 in Salt Lake City, and go from there."
If the Jazz indeed are flustered — be it L.A.'s star power in general, or its obvious size advantage in particular — Lakers leader Kobe Bryant doesn't necessarily see it.
"I don't even know if it's frustration," Bryant, sitting a while later in the same seat Boozer occupied, said Tuesday night.
"I think it's just, um, them thinking through things of how they want to try solve the issue or get around the problem," he added. "You know, that's what I see out there, so it's important for us to be mindful of it."
But across the country, the view from a distance — at least in Charles Barkley's world — is clear as can be.
And when that's all put into the focus for the Jazz, who are in the midst of a best-of-seven series with the defending NBA champion Lakers, it doesn't exactly present a pretty picture.
Not in black-and-white, not on an old-school color TV and most certainly not in HD.
"I don't think Utah thinks they can beat the Lakers," Barkley said on the air Tuesday night. "I think they want to beat them, but I don't think they believe they can beat them.
"In Game No. 1, (the Jazz) were just kind of playing basketball. The Lakers weren't spectacular," added Barkley, the retired NBA Hall of Famer and current TNT babblemaster. "But just looking at (the Jazz's) body language, I don't think they think they can beat the Lakers."
And that was before Game 2, when the Lakers took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that continues Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
Afterward, Barkley and the rest of TNT weren't much kinder to a Jazz club that was dominated inside, evidenced by double-doubles from Laker bigs Pau Gasol (22 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks), Andrew Bynum (17 points, 14 boards, four blocks) and Lamar Odom (11 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks).
"If you watch that game, there was one play where they (the Lakers) got three offensive rebounds because they were bigger," Barkley said. "The Jazz have tried as hard as they can, but the guys are just too big physically for them. In offensive rebounding, they (the Lakers) are just killing them."
Barkley sidekick Kenny Smith said the match-up reminds him of "a really great jayvee team playing a varsity team, meaning they are not big enough.
"I don't mean that as disrespect," Smith added. "I meant it as a size issue, where kids are older and a little bit bigger and stronger, and that is what the Lakers are against these guys."
As for Game 3, Barkley said, "Realistically, as long as the game is a half-court game, whether offensively or defensively, Utah is at a serious disadvantage.
"They have got to try to play like the (Phoenix) Suns play and outrun the Lakers," he added. "First of all, they (the Jazz) are limited defensively, but on offense they are working so hard to score. ... In my opinion, the only way they can get back in this series is to turn it into a track meet."
That may not be quite how Jazz coach Jerry Sloan sees things.
But even Sloan — and Utah swingman C.J. Miles too — readily concedes that body language needs to be better going forward.
"There were a couple times when you'd see us coming to the huddle in timeouts like the game was already over, and we're only down 10," Miles said. "We just have to stay with it the whole game and just try to keep playing."
"When we got down a little bit, I thought our guys seemed to have their heads between their legs," added Sloan, whose Jazz couldn't get any closer than without four points in the fourth quarter after earlier trailing by as many as 15. "But I thought we fought through that and tried to give ourselves a chance to get back in the game."
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