Trying To Wrap It Up
Happy to be home, the Utah Jazz are desperate for another chance on the road.
Utah hosts Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, who lead 3-2 and can wrap it up by becoming the first road team to win in the series.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Utah -4 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 213 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Los Angeles +4 (View NBA Bet Percentages). Bet this game.
Los Angeles won at home 111-104 Wednesday night to move within a victory of clinching. The Jazz had their most competitive road performance of the series, but still couldn't overcome the Lakers - even as Kobe Bryant played conservatively with a bad back.
If the Jazz lose Friday, they won't get another chance.
``If we lose, we go home,'' forward Matt Harpring said. ``We certainly don't want to lose on our home court the last game of the year. No way.''
The Lakers have the advantage of knowing a loss won't end their season. They also know that eventually Bryant's back will be healthy enough for him to drive to the basket again. But the best thing for Bryant's back would be ending this series as soon as possible and letting him rest up before the Western Conference finals.
Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said Bryant and three other starters sat out Thursday instead of practicing. He added that Bryant, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol already know what they need to do Friday night in Utah, where the Jazz are 4-1 in the playoffs and went 37-4 in the regular season.
``The message is being under control. It's about execution at this point. It's about winning the game,'' Jackson said. ``There's a lot of intensity. We probably have to play 10 points better than we did last night to win it.''
Bryant was not available to reporters Thursday afternoon.
Odom said Bryant's performance in Game 5 was an example for the rest of the Lakers. The league MVP's back stiffened up in the fourth quarter and he did not attempt a field goal in the period, but still finished with 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
``Incredible, as always,'' Odom said. ``Kobe made plays for us when he needed to.''
The Jazz were pretty relaxed at practice Thursday morning, although still unhappy about Gasol's offensive rebound and dunk to put the Lakers up 107-102 with 20 seconds remaining in Game 5. The Jazz felt Gasol shoved Mehmet Okur in the back before grabbing the rebound, but there was no foul called.
``You can't worry about that. If you keep that in your craw, then you're going to be affected by it in the next game,'' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. ``The biggest thing to do is to wipe it out and get ready to go tomorrow night.''
The Jazz couldn't blame the loss on Gasol's late rebound. It was one of six he pulled down in the game and all six were on offense.
Utah had several other missed opportunities, but still was within one point in the final minutes.
``You watch the tape of the game, you wish you could jump in the screen and play it all over again,'' said Carlos Boozer, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds. ``I thought we had the opportunity to take the lead a few times, and looking back on it, it's definitely frustrating. You put the pressure on the home team if you get the lead.''
Boozer said he and guard Deron Williams watched video from the game on the flight home. As difficult as it was, he said the Jazz showed they could hang with the Lakers in Los Angeles and would be confident playing a Game 7 there.
Now, they just have to force one.
``We've got two left with them,'' Boozer said. ``We've got to win tomorrow night to have the second one.''
After making the Western Conference finals a year ago, the Jazz face getting knocked out one round earlier.
The Jazz are 1-1 when hosting a Game 6 and trailing 3-2 in the last 10 years. The victory came in the first round a year ago when the Jazz beat the Rockets in Utah, then won the seventh game on the road.
The loss isn't a pleasant memory.
It was the 1998 NBA finals, when the Jazz had won in Chicago to pull within 3-2, then lost the series at home when Michael Jordan hit a jumper from the top of the key in the final seconds.
Jordan was the MVP that season. Bryant was the MVP this year. The Jazz want the similarities to end there.
``I think it's exciting myself. I always have loved to be in those situations. If you like to play, what better position could you be in?'' Sloan said. ``They have to come and beat us, and we hope we don't beat ourselves.''
Sloan was coaching Utah in that series and could rely on veterans John Stockton and Karl Malone to counter Jordan and the Bulls. He has a considerably younger team this year, led by third-year point guard Williams.
Williams has been averaging nearly 23 points and 11 assists in this series. He scored 27 on Wednesday and had 10 assists.
The rest of the Jazz haven't been as consistent. Sloan said he was disappointed in some outside shots his players took quickly Wednesday night instead of setting up the offense and giving the inside players a chance at the rebound.
But he said overall, the Jazz's composure has improved each game.
``We're tough enough,'' Sloan said. ``I think we've grown a lot in that area.''
Utah forward Andrei Kirilenko missed practice Thursday to deal with visa details for a summer trip to France, according to agent Marc Fleisher. Fleisher said Kirilenko had to take care of the visa, which is required because he is a Russian citizen, on Thursday or wait another month.
The Jazz said that Kirilenko was expected to play Friday. Bet this game.
Here are some top trends for tonight's game:
- LA LAKERS is 8-6 against the spread versus UTAH over the last 3 seasons
- 10 of 16 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
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