Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press
Utah's Ronnie Brewer dunks, while the only thing Los Angeles' Pau Gasol can do is watch, during Game 5 Wednesday night. Game 6 is tonight in Salt Lake City.

Ronnie Brewer's stat line from Wednesday night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers was impressive. Brewer, the Utah Jazz's young starting shooting guard, made seven of his nine attempts from the field and finished with 16 points and five assists in just 22 minutes of action.

Then again, NBA players tend to shoot a high percentage when they aren't being closely guarded and most of their shots are dunks or layups.

Apparently feeling like Brewer is not much of an offensive threat, L.A.'s Kobe Bryant often left him in order to double-team someone else.

"Kobe was shadowing me like crazy," said Jazz forward Carlos Boozer. "He was leaving Ronnie by himself and Deron (Williams) did a great job of finding (Brewer) open for dunks and layups. If Kobe is going to do that, we're going to take what they give us."

Brewer made the Lakers pay for their strategy by scoring 10 points in the first quarter alone. That was more than he'd averaged through the first four games of the series.

"Ronnie did a great job running the floor and making himself available under the basket," Williams said. "He had a great game — 16 points in 22 minutes is phenomenal."

It wasn't enough, of course, as L.A. was able to earn the victory, and now the Jazz will need to win tonight in Game 6 at EnergySolutions Arena to avoid elimination.

Brewer says some of his offensive success Wednesday was simply due to him feeling better physically.

"During the first couple of games (of the Lakers series) my hamstring was bothering me," Brewer said. "I wasn't really feeling 100 percent until Game 4. Now I am able to run the floor better and be more aggressive on the offensive end."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan wasn't surprised by Bryant lagging off Brewer defensively in Game 5. It's something the Lakers have done all series. Utah just did a better job of exploiting it than they had in the previous games.

"They lay off of Andrei (Kirilenko) and they lay off of Brewer," said Sloan of the Lakers' defensive strategy. "They welcome them to shoot the ball. That's why Ronnie got some points (Wednesday) night in the game and why Andrei got a few."

Defensively, Brewer has been starting the games with the unenviable task of trying to guard Bryant, the high-scoring league MVP. Bryant got off to a fast start in Game 5 and Sloan was quick to try other Jazz players against Bryant.

"Without a doubt he struggled," said Sloan when asked about Brewer's defense in Game 5. "We had to change that matchup around and go another way, but we're talking about a young player that has made a lot of strides."

While Brewer showed he is highly effective when he's in position to dunk the ball, Sloan hopes the second-year player will continue to work on his outside shooting. After all, Brewer's only two misses on Wednesday were open, midrange jumpers.

"He's got to say 'why am I always open,'" Sloan said. "He's got to work through that.


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