Like star treatment and ESPN showing dunk highlights, it's pretty much an NBA given that bench players perform better at home.
"Been that way," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, "as long as I've been in basketball."
So it's no surprise to Sloan, who's been in the league 40-plus years, that Jazz subs usually play better in front of the enthusiastic doctor with wacky signs and props, and that Laker backups do better in front of Jack Nicholson.
But why does he think reserves seem more, well, reserved on the road?
"They sleep better at home, I guess," Sloan said.
(Insert your own Holiday Inn Express joke here.)
Utah's backups scored a postseason-high 39 points in Game 4 at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz, who have had much better bench play overall in this series, are counting on their reserves to spark them again in Los Angeles in tonight's pivotal Game 5.
"It's gotta come from everywhere. The bench has got to be into it," said Jazz point guard Deron Williams. "We've just got to have everything going right for us."
Small forward Matt Harpring, one of the first guys off of Utah's bench, says the Jazz reserves are now confident they can give the team a much-needed edge, even on the road. Utah's subs actually scored one more point in the two road games in this series (59 away, 58 home), but they only shot 36.7 percent in L.A. versus 46.5 percent in Utah.
They hope that trend changes tonight.
"I think it's easier to be a starter and a bench player to play better at home. It's homecourt advantage for a reason," Harpring said. "But if we (reserves) can match that same energy we had the other night when we come out in Game 5, we have a good chance to win."
But for whatever reason perhaps mostly mental it isn't always easy.
"Players that really like to compete, they're going to compete all the time wherever you are ... ," Sloan said. "We need everybody to play well. And as you saw in the game the other day, our bench has to play well. That's usually the deciding factor in a lot of these games: how well your bench plays."
Deep threat Sasha Vujacic has been the only consistent role player off the bench for the Lakers, whose subs have yet to outscore their Jazz counterparts. Harpring, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Ronnie Price have each had their moments for Utah.
Carlos Boozer said the starters are just hoping for "the same energy" from the reserves when they spell them.
"They've been terrific for us all season," he said. "We love our bench guys."
STAR POWER?: EnergySolutions Arena is louder than the Staples Center and more intense, Harpring said, but the Lakers' home has proven to be a difficult venue for the Jazz. They lost both regular season games there in 2007-08, the first two games of this series and are only 3-16 all-time at the arena against the Lakers.
"It's different, but for some reason it's a hard place to play," Harpring said. "Who knows what it is? Maybe it's all the celebrities looking at you, the lights, maybe all the eyeballs. I don't know."
NOT FISHING FOR FOULS: It's definitely helped the Jazz's cause the past two games, but Utah hasn't purposely tried to force ex-Jazz guard Derek Fisher into having foul problems. The Lakers' starting point guard picked up two fouls early in the first quarter and had to sit out most of the first half in both Jazz home wins.
"I've never said, Deron (Williams), you've got to try to get him in foul trouble," Sloan said. "I would never say that to anybody."
PRICE SATISFIED: He got smashed, was bloodied and had four stitches placed above his right eye, but Price didn't think the truck that ran over him aka Lakers backup Ronny Turiaf should be suspended.
At practice Tuesday morning, the Jazz backup said he was glad the NBA didn't further punish the L.A. center after reviewing the flagrant foul Turiaf committed against him in the second quarter.
"Yeah, I agree with that. I don't think he should have been suspended at all," Price said. "Like I said, it's playoffs. People's adrenaline is going. Things happen. It's basketball."
COACH SPEAK: Jazz special assistant coach Jeff Hornacek expects to hear from the Phoenix Suns sometime this week about their vacant head-coaching position. Before the Suns talk to Hornacek, though, they will have to receive permission from the Jazz.
ANYBODY BUT HIM: It's one thing to have Kobe Bryant beat you. It's a whole 'nother thing to have your buddy and former teammate try to take you down. That's how Boozer felt when Fisher about single-handedly forced overtime by scoring 10 quick points late in Game 4.
Boozer laughed about how he'd rather have "anybody but" Fisher beat them.
"To see him bring them back on his own, it was like, 'C'mon, D-Fish. Not D-Fish,"' Boozer said. "No, I'm happy for D-Fish."
Boozer isn't surprised because he thought Fisher was instrumental in helping the Lakers win three championships.
"Guys like him, Robert Horry, players like that, they get prepared for this part of the year," Boozer added. "And D-Fish, he's been playing great all series."
Indeed. Fisher is averaging 13.8 points against the Jazz on 56.7 percent shooting and an incredible 64.3 percent mark from 3-point territory. He averaged 11.7 points and hit 43.6 percent of his shots in the regular season.
PRO CHALLENGE: Utah athletes from the ages of 6 to 24 are invited to test their skills in baseball, football and basketball Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the POWERade Pro Challenge at the South Jordan Wal-Mart (11328 S. Jordan Gateway Road).
Boozer will be in attendance as participants compete for prizes, including jerseys, balls, T-shirts and hats. A trip to Orlando, Fla., for the POWERade Fantasy Sports Weekend with pro athletes will be given away to one athlete or spectator.
BRYANT UPDATE: Kobe Bryant walked a bit gingerly as he emerged from the training area at Lakers headquarters to speak with reporters Tuesday, remaining on his feet since sitting is not a preferred option because of his sore lower back.
"Quite a bit (of pain), but it's a lot better than it was yesterday," Bryant said with a smile his mood clearly positive. "It'll be fine."Contributing: Associated Press
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