Ron Artest is a career 34% three-point shooter, shooting 35% this season, and has shot 26.5% the last two months of the season. And before last night's 4-7 game, he was 7/42 (16.7%).
Yet Crazy Pills made 4 of the Lakers' 9 three-pointers in the second half to help LA take a 3-0 series lead over the Jazz. So when someone who has been shooting so poorly comes and makes the difference in the game, it's a little frustrating.
After getting pounded inside for the first two games of the series, the game plan was to double and rotate on shooters. It worked, for the most part, in the first quarter as the Jazz held the Lakers to 17 points, the lowest in the series.
After going 1-6 from the arc in that first quarter, LA finished the game going 12-25 as they made the Jazz pay for helping down low. Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant added two apiece in that second half in addition to the four by Artest. Fisher's final three was a dagger that put the Lakers up for good, 109-108 with just 28 seconds left.
The Jazz certainly had their chances in the final minutes. They had another lead late, 98-93 with 6:22 left in the game. Unfortunately, just like in game 1, the Jazz went on a three-minute scoring drought that let the Lakers hang around. Even after the scoring drought, which was sandwiched between a Wesley Matthews and-1 and two Deron Williams free throws, the Jazz were still up 4, 100-96.
You could point to several reasons why the Jazz couldn't finish things off. Carlos Boozer couldn't handle a pass from Deron on a pick and roll and lost the ball out of bounds. Wesley Matthews missed two threes (0-6 on the night) and a free-throw. Boozer was also denied in putting that missed three back up and probably should have got a foul call but he hadn't been getting anything all series. Finally, with the Jazz down three, Fisher fouled Deron intentionally so as to not give up a three-point shot. Deron made both free throws.
The Jazz caught a lucky break as Artest threw away the inbounds pass and Kyle Korver recovered before calling a timeout. What's weird is that before the timeout was granted, it almost looked like Shannon Brown was trying to foul Korver. That would have made a nice ending.
As it was, the Jazz had a final shot to win the game, down only one at the time. Everyone knew that it was comign in to Deron. The Lakers zoned up so finely illustrated here as to prevent any penetration from Deron. His jumper just inside the line hit off left iron. Matthews was able to sneak in off the wing and get the rebound. He was only able to tip the ball back up though which hit off the backboard and rolled off the right side of the rim. Knowing how hard he takes these things, he's going to have nightmares all summer.
That's a shot the Deron makes more times than not. I really thought he might try to ninja a pass into Boozer who was standing right under the basket. Four Lakers were at the free-throw line or higher if you look at those replays. I don't know what kind of angle he had but I thought he could have bounced it in there or passed while jumping for his shot. We've seen him make tougher passes but he had a good look.
So as it's been in this series, the Jazz have made every game close and have had a legitimate shot to win each game but the Lakers have just made the shots that were needed down the stretch of each one. Though you might puke as you do it, you have to tip your caps to them.
So where do the Jazz go from here being down 3-0 to LA? Anything less than a full effort will leave me severely disappointed. I don't expect that though. They might lose but I don't want all of the good things from this season wiped out by a last-game loss with our starters on the bench. I don't expect that though. I don't think this team will go down like that.
- Kyle Korver, Here's your other Zoolander reference, Kyle Korver is so hot right now. You can't really say that his near-perfect shooting night was in vein. Without his 9-10 from the field and 5-5 from the arc, the Jazz aren't in this one late. He was able to neutralize the offensive beast that was Ron Artest. I haven't seen him unconscious ever. He's only had one other 5-5 night and that was with Philly. His five made three-pointers was the most in his playoff career and two off his career-high of 7. How is it that he hasn't made more than 7 in a game yet?
It was a great thing to behold, it's just too bad the Jazz couldn't win this game.
- Andrei Kirilenko, Fisher's return a few years ago against the Warriors was a bigger moment but I was looking forward to AK's more. It gave me chills to see him return to the court. At the same time I can't help but think what might have been had we had him to close out the season. I know he's a huge salary hit on our team but I'm really looking forward to him playing next season and hope he doesn't get traded. There's no way he should ever play for another team. At this point he's right up there with Stockton and Malone for me.
As for his stats, he had 8 & 6 in his return with a nice block on Kobe in just 17 minutes. I hope he gets some more time in game 4.
- Deron Williams, He certainly got the calls he needed but also got called for some bogus calls thanks to the Fisher Flop. DWill had 28 & 9 and had 14 free-throw attempts. There's nobody else that's going to take that last-second jumper and not many others that I want taking it. Some night's those are going to fall like we've seen in the past and other nights they're not.
- Wesley Matthews, This was the type of game that's going to make Matthews a better player. He's going to remember this night when he went 2-11 and 0-6 from the arc. I almost worry about him taking things too personally. It's a bad time to have one of his worst games offensively of the season but I know this will make him stronger mentally.
- Carlos Boozer, I'm not sure what to think of his 14 & 14. 5 of his 7 field goals were jumper and hasn't been able to get anything done inside. This isn't anything against him either but I wonder what might have been had Sloan left AK in the game for Deron's final shot instead of subbing Boozer back in. Would it have made a difference?
My biggest gripe with Boozer this series is simply not putting a body on people for rebounds. Too often Gasol has been able to roam the paint and tip the ball back out or get the put-back.
- Paul Millsap, He had just 6 shots in 37 minutes with 13 points and just 3 rebounds. He was on the receiving end of a Boozer assist late to give the Jazz back the lead momentarily. He got most of the PT in place of Fesenko
- The Jazz have done a remarkable job at not turning the ball over in this series. They've had 11, 10, and 11 turnovers respectively.
- The Jazz shot almost 84% from the free-throw line. That's what is needed to have a chance in this series.
- Hopefully this series is the last time we have to see Derek Fisher.