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Lakers-Jazz Preview and Gameday Open Thread

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Quick prediction: Hawks win.

Lengthier prediction: See below

1. Lakers (57-25) vs. 5. Jazz (53-29)

Game 1 Tips: 3:30 EST on ABC

The Jazz prevailed over a tough Nuggets team in round one despite a passel of injuries. While Wesley Matthews, CJ Miles and Kyrylo Fesenko don't sound like 3/5ths of a lineup that can challenge the defending champions, they flummoxed one of maybe five teams that had a shot at winning it all.

The new look Jazz will almost certainly flummox the Lakers to some degree. In fact, the change of pace might be a good thing. The Lakers destroyed the Jazz this year, going +45 in four games. You could argue that a more stripped down offense might be just what the doctor ordered for the Jazz. Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams played brilliant basketball during the first round series.

In a long series, though, operating from a short bench will take it's toll. And it isn't as though the Lakers don't have solutions for Boozer and Williams. Also, the Lakers have some unheralded offense weaponry of their own, or so I am told.

Player to watch: Matthews. If Kobe locks down Deron Williams, Matthews is going to need to produce on the level he did in game 6 against Denver. He can hit threes and get to the basket, so he should be able to take advantage of what the Lakers give him.

Prediction: Lakers in 6. If Utah were at full strength, this might be something of a toss-up. But Deron Williams suffered a minor elbow injury, adding insult to, um, injury. The Jazz have a narrow window here, and any diminution of his performance is going to have a major impact. That said, I can see Jazz holding home court through game 4, simply because they have such a large advantage there.