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NBA PLAYOFFS

The First Look

May 03, 1997|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER

LAKERS vs. UTAH JAZZ

Western Conference

Semifinals

* Records: Lakers 56-26, Jazz 64-18.

* Home records: Lakers 31-10, Jazz 38-3.

* Road records: Lakers 25-16, Jazz 26-15.

* Playoff records: Lakers defeated Trail Blazers, 3-1; Jazz defeated Clippers, 3-0.

* Season series: Jazz, 3-1.

* Jazz leaders vs. Lakers: Karl Malone 29.5 points, Greg Ostertag 8.5 rebounds, John Stockton 9.8 assists.

* Laker leaders vs. Jazz: Shaquille O'Neal 28.7 points, O'Neal 12.0 rebounds, Nick Van Exel 6.3 assists.

* About the Lakers: After eliminating one team that had won three of their four meetings during the regular season, the Lakers get another. The difference between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Jazz, though, is that Utah often dominated in its victories, with winning margins of 17 points Nov. 20 at the Forum, 26 points Dec. 4 at the Delta Center, and 12 points April 9 at the Delta Center. O'Neal played in all but the April game. The 101-75 defeat tied for the Lakers' biggest loss of the season. And, the Lakers have to face the Jazz without much rest or preparation. They have one practice, today's, after winning the first-round series Friday in Portland.

* About the Jazz: Laker Coach Del Harris' comment about three weeks ago remains the best analysis: "They execute better than an 18th-century hangman." Which is to say, the Jazz is precise and unforgiving. Utah was the No. 1 shooting team in the league during the regular season, No. 3 in free throw percentage, No. 8 in three-point accuracy and No. 1 in assists. No wonder only one team, the Detroit Pistons, grabbed fewer offensive rebounds. One chance is usually enough for Utah. The Jazz comes in having won seven in succession, including a three-game sweep of the Clippers in the first round, and 21 of the last 22. The loss? To the Lakers on April 13 on O'Neal's basket at the buzzer.

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