Playoff preview: Utah Jazz: Top dogs vs. underdogs

Jazz have plenty of examples to draw inspiration from to beat the heavily favored L.A. Lakers

Published: Saturday, April 18 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Jazz hope to pull off the big upset like fictional boxer Rocky Balboa made a habit of doing in his six movies.

Deseret News File Photo

Depending on who you're listening to — national pundits, Lakers fans, Jerry Sloan — the Utah Jazz rank somewhere on the underdog scale between David, Rudy and Daniel LaRusso.

Beating Jack Nicholson's team might not be considered the biggest upset in sports history, but many will have you believe it'd fall somewhere between next to and impossible.

Having lost seven of nine games, sporting a woeful track record on the road, plummeting to the No. 8 seed and going up against a talented, red-hot team that has big-time star power on multiple levels, this free-falling franchise from Utah could sure use a script writer or two — and if they play defense, all the better — to help develop one of those touchy-feely underdog success stories with the Hollywood-like ending.

Then again, if Deron Williams thinks the Jazz upsetting the loaded Lakers would, in his words, "shock the world," who knows what kind of global reverberations it'd take to find anybody in Tinsel Town to make a movie about their Purple and Gold-clad heroes getting knocked off by the little guys who don't have Kobe Bryant on their roster.

There's little disputing the Jazz are faced against all sorts of odds. Of course, Jazz fans desperately wanting something longer than a sweep can refer to Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson type of odds, and you might remember what happened to the heavy favorite in that flop of a fight.

The Jazz, however, have acted like they're relishing their role — even if many consider them the Generals going up against the Globetrotters.

"There's not too many that probably would give us a chance and that's fine," Williams said. "We'll take being the underdogs. ...

"You definitely use it as motivation," he added. "Every time you turn on the TV, you're going to see a 'Sweep' or a 'Lakers in five, Lakers in six' (prediction). We can use that and turn it around and believe in each other and go out there and get it done."

That unfathomable upset would make for quite the heart-warming story — at least in Utah — now, wouldn't it?

Fortunately for the Jazz and their fans, there is some history that all hope — and the first-round series before it begins — is not yet lost:RULON GARDNER DEFEATS THE RUSSIAN DUDE: Gardner epitomizes the true American rags-to-win-gold-medal-by-beating-supposedly-unconquerable-Russian-to-riches success story. He grew up in poor circumstances in a rural town (Afton, Wyo., not Salt Lake, but same diff to snooty L.A. types), kept working hard, and eventually shocked everyone, first by body-slamming a "Siberian Bear" on the wrestling mat and, second, by appearing in the epic silver-screen sensation "The R.M." Many Jazz guys — save perhaps Andrei Kirilenko and Kyrylo Fesenko — can be inspired by the Utah resident's story.

The Jazz, it seems, can certainly relate to Gardner's pre-match predicament. Alexander Karelin hadn't lost in more than a decade; the Jazz (48-34) haven't won on the 65-17 Lakers' home court in nine tries.

"We have nothing to lose. They're the No. 1 seed. Nobody expects them to lose any games. Everybody expects them to sweep every team until they get to the finals," Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer said. "So, we've just got to go out there and play, play relaxed, and the pressure's on them."

SUPER BOWL III: The thing we learned from the New York Jets' win over the Baltimore Colts is this: Sandbagging it — like Sloan saying things look "pretty bleak" and talking up the Lakers as being a near-unbeatable powerful force — is not the way to go. Take it from Broadway Joe: Doing underwear ads is your golden ticket to success. Seriously, now, before you can hawk whitey-tighties, you must boldly call your shot.

Though the Jazz gave no such motivating material for the Lakers' bulletin board, they boldly predicted that they believe this might not be as one-sided as many are predicting.

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