SALT LAKE CITY — Last spring the Los Angeles Lakers pretty much dared Utah's Ronnie Brewer to shoot the ball from the outside, hanging off him defensively during the first round of the playoffs in order to concentrate on the Jazz's more potent weapons.
The strategy worked, too, as Brewer was unable to make the Lakers pay during their 4-1 series victory.
So the third quarter of Saturday night's 102-94 Jazz victory over the Lakers at EnergySolutions Arena had to be extra sweet for Brewer. The Jazzman nailed five of his six shots in the third — including a 3-pointer — for 11 points as the Jazz started to pull away from the defending NBA champs.
"It was good because I felt like I was shooting the ball without hesitating," said Brewer, who finished with 19 points.
Brewer was feeling so good about his shot that he said he apologized to Deron Williams for missing one, costing Utah's star point guard an assist.
The Jazz have enjoyed one of the best home-court advantages in the NBA for decades, but Brewer admitted that it doesn't sit very well with him that a good portion of the audience in Salt Lake is decked out in the gold and purple when the Lakers come to town.
Beating Los Angeles "feels really good, especially considering the turnout of Lakers fans in Salt Lake City," said Brewer. "It's kinda like 60-40 (in fan support), but it's good to get a win. When we play those guys it's always heated. It's a heated rivalry and it's good to come out with a win."
Brewer wasn't the only Jazz wing player who had a big night. Rookie Wesley Matthews scored 11 of his career-high 19 points in the first quarter as the Lakers left him open for jumpers as well. Matthews made all four of his shots from the field in the first quarter, including a 3-pointer. He had 16 points by halftime and finished the game with three more points than former MVP, Kobe Bryant.
"If I start passing up (open shots) then it just puts more pressure on my team," said Matthews. "(My teammates) were finding me when I was open and I was just shooting it and playing ball."11 comments on this story
One of the reasons Matthews, an undrafted free agent, has been starting all season and seeing so much playing time is because Jazz veterans like C.J. Miles, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Price have been injured.
But all three were healthy enough to play Saturday night and only Miles made it into the game.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan simply appreciates Matthews' effort.
"We've liked (Matthews) all along and he'll continue to get better," said Sloan. "He'll have some ups and downs. He's a young player, but he's going to compete. He's not going to hold his head and feel sorry for himself if he gets screened or somebody bumps him. He'll fight right back. Those kind of guys get better."