Kobe, Lakers Chug in Survival Mode
Their survival instincts continue to be impressive, though. And if a team does topple them, it won't be the Utah Jazz. You gathered that the undersized Jazz, depleted by injuries and a recent history of lopsided futility against the Lakers, never will have a better shot to take a series lead in this ongoing farce than they had Sunday. They led by four points with four minutes left thanks largely to the effort of players many sports diehards haven't heard of, much less Sly Stallone, Andy Garcia, Glenn Frey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, gap toothed and all.
There were C.J. Miles and Wesley Matthews and Paul Millsap and a dude who still looks like Ashton Kutcher -- Kyle Korver hates that comparison, you know -- playing in the everlasting mold of their coach. Jerry Sloan probably won't win an NBA title in his lifetime, but he's definitely the champion of extracting the most from the least. It would have been easy to lay down and get blown out in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals after the Jazz began slowly again. Adding to the struggle was a setback only 20 seconds after tip-off. That's how long it took Deron Williams -- who must be the league's best point guard now, seeing how everyone finally is pronouncing his first name correctly -- to writhe on the floor in pain, clutching his right shoulder after tangling his arm with Derek Fisher's on a seemingly harmless attempt to shoot. In the freakiest of sequences, Williams bruised his left elbow Friday night when he crashed into a pick with 20 seconds left in Utah's first-round series clincher over Denver, then banged up the other arm in the opening hiccups here. Forty seconds, one superstar, fluke injuries to both arms? It could have been a nightmare on Figueroa Street.
But Sloan never lets his team quit, using old-school language that somehow inspires the young. "They will take your nose and stick in into the ground and turn you on your heels. That's how good they are," he said of the Lakers. "It's the playoffs. We can't accept getting our nose rubbed into the dirt."