Too often, it seems, Jazz forward Carlos Boozer leaves the leading to teammate Deron Williams (right). Perhaps that's natural since Williams is the point guard who runs the offense. But Boozer is in his seventh season and the Jazz should be drawing much of its energy from his physical inside play. That didn't happen in Utah's first-round series against the Houston Rockets, and it didn't happen in either Games 1 or 2 of this series, in which he was relatively quiet with 15 and 10 points. But it happened on Friday night and that was the major reason the Jazz emerged with a 104-99 victory that might've put them back in the series. "We were expecting he'd have a monster game sometime," said Kobe Bryant. Boozer finished with 27 points and 20 rebounds, finding space to operate amid the seven-foot Laker trees (Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol) and repeatedly beating them to the ball. "I tried to stop thinking so much out there," said Boozer. "I had put a lot of pressure on myself. So I just wanted to bring energy and passion." And 40 winks, also. After playing poorly in Game 2, he said he didn't get to sleep until 6 a.m. "I'll sleep better tonight," he said, "but I'm still going to watch a tape of the game."
The Jazz didn't let Kobe Bryant totally dominate the game, though he came close, finishing with a game-high 34 points and seven assists. But he made at least three plays that no one else on the planet could've made ... unless Michael Jordan climbs into a time machine and gets back in a uniform. During a frenetic trip toward the hoop with the shot clock running down in the third period, Bryant went up for a jump shot but passed off to a wide-open Rony Turiaf at the last moment for a basket. How he knew there was enough time to make the pass is anyone's guess. In the fourth period, he pump-faked Matt Harpring into the air, drew the foul and made the field goal. How he adjusted his shot to allow for the contact (which was significant) is anyone's guess. Minutes later, he stepped between two Jazz defenders for an awkward jumper, realized he was going to miss, then sped in for his own rebound and a follow dunk. He knew exactly where ... you get the idea. "You know me," Bryant said later, "I'll try anything."
Friday night marked the one-year anniversary of the most magical 24-hour period in the personal and professional life of Lakers guard Derek Fisher. On May 9, 2007, he began the morning in New York City by the side of his daughter, Tatum, who had successful eye surgery, and ended it back in Salt Lake City, making a key three-pointer in overtime as the Jazz beat the Golden State Warriors 127-117 Game 2 of their second-round Western playoff series. There was nothing quite so magical for Fisher in this loss. He played steadily but unspectacularly with 13 points and only two assists. And the crowd let him know it. In truth, since Fisher left the Jazz for the Lakers last July, signing a three-year deal that enabled him to be closer to the hospital that could treat his daughter, he hasn't exactly gotten the returning-hero treatment he did on 05/09/07. He was booed unmercifully when the Lakers first returned to the Energy Solutions Arena last Nov. 30 and played poorly (three points) in a 120-96 loss. When the Lakers returned on March 29, the unmerciful booing was replaced by vociferous booing, which is what he experienced on Friday night in the pregame introductions. "It's nothing I didn't expect," said Fisher.
You no doubt read about the Jazz fan -- you don't need to know his name -- who was ejected by referee Bob Delaney from a first-round series game against the Houston Rockets. It certainly didn't cause him to re-think his behavior, not that anyone expected it would.Sitting directly behind the basket at which the Lakers were shooting in the second half, the guy pulled out more props than Gallagher. With Bryant at the line, he waved a blue Jazz flag that almost touched the backboard. (Shouldn't that be illegal?) Then he waved a rubber chicken on a string. Next time Bryant was at the line, he upped the class-less ante by waving a doll a string bearing a sign that read Kobe, not room service again, a reference to Bryant's legal troubles of several years ago. Then he finished up by yelling into a giant megaphone. All I could think of was Tiger Woods backing off a putt because someone two fairways away hiccupped.
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