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NBA PLAYOFFS

Scouting Report: LAKERS vs. UTAH: Western Conference Semifinals

May 04, 1997|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER

* About the Jazz: This is no two-man team. Jeff Hornacek was mostly a non-factor in the first-round victory over the Clippers, but last season's standout performance showed he can produce on the postseason stage. And Bryon Russell's development has been one of the main reasons the Jazz went from 55-27 to a franchise-record 64-18.

* About the Lakers: Kobe Bryant went from a featured role in Game 3 against the Trail Blazers to getting six minutes in Friday's first-round clincher, but this series should present more opportunities. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the 3-1 series triumph over the Trail Blazers was that it came with only two starters, Shaquille O'Neal and Eddie Jones, having solid all-around showings, while Elden Campbell was a non-factor on the boards and Nick Van Exel and Robert Horry struggled to score.

THE MATCHUPS

* THE GUARDS: Jones shut down Hornacek in the four regular-season meetings, when the Jazz veteran shot 39.4% and averaged 9.5 points. But Van Exel (36.4%, 6.3 assists, 11.3 points) had similar woes against Utah while John Stockton (61.4%, 9.8 assists, 19.8 points) soared.

* FORWARDS: Rasheed Wallace was enough of a handful for Campbell in the first round, but now comes Malone, not merely an MVP candidate but rolling along in the best season of a career that is arguably unmatched by any power forward in history. Meanwhile, the Lakers have all but officially switched to a platoon system at small forward with Horry and Jerome Kersey.

* CENTER: O'Neal, fresh off hitting the Trail Blazers for 33 points a game, averaged 28.7 points and 12 rebounds against Utah in the regular season, but he also shot only 47.8%, unusually low for him. Barring the unexpected, the Lakers will need him to dominate even more against Greg Ostertag.

* INTANGIBLES: It's tough to face the league's second-winningest team with only one day of preparation, but the Lakers beat the Jazz the last time the teams met, April 13 at the Forum, on O'Neal's buzzer-beater. That was also the only one of the four meetings in which the Lakers were not on the second night of a back-to-back while Utah had been off the night before. The Jazz has home-court advantage over everyone but the Chicago Bulls. Utah is 38-3 at the Delta Center.

* COACHES: Both are small-town guys from the Midwest, Del Harris of the Lakers from Indiana and Jerry Sloan of the Jazz from Illinois. Both began this season with expectations and a realistic shot at reaching the championship series. But now, one won't even get to the Western Conference finals.

* THE PICK: It has been a special season for the Jazz, but the Lakers give the impression that, because of all the injuries, theirs is only beginning. They used the Trail Blazers to prove the difference between the regular season and the playoffs. Now they'll do it again. Lakers in seven.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

LAKERS: ROSTERS/PLAYOFF STATISTICS

*--*

No. Player Pts. FG% FT% Reb. Ast. 2 Fisher 1.3 .143 100.0 0.7 1.7 4 Scott 3.3 .333 100.0 2.0 1.0 5 Horry 3.5 .286 100.0 4.3 1.3 6 Jones 12.5 .593 .667 4.0 4.3 8 Bryant 7.5 .529 .833 1.0 0.5 9 Van Exel 8.5 .300 .600 3.0 6.5 12 Kersey 6.0 .500 .800 7.8 2.0 34 O'Neal 33.0 .534 .644 9.3 3.3 40 Knight 3.8 .857 .750 3.3 0.5 41 Campbell 16.8 .500 .833 2.2 1.5 43 Blount 0.5 .000 .500 0.0 0.1 45 Rooks 0.8 .250 .500 1.0 0.0

*--*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

JAZZ: ROSTERS/PLAYOFF STATISTICS

*--*

No. Player Pts. FG% FT% Reb. Ast. 00 Ostertag 2.0 .375 .000 4.7 0.3 3 Russell 10.3 .600 .500 3.7 1.3 10 Eisley 9.3 .750 100.0 2.0 1.3 12 Stockton 14.3 .533 .875 4.3 11.3 14 Hornacek 17.0 .467 .950 5.7 3.7 31 Keefe 0.0 .000 .000 2.0 0.0 32 Malone 30.7 .485 .743 11.3 2.0 34 Morris 2.7 .375 .500 2.7 0.3 40 Anderson 4.7 .556 .667 2.7 1.3 43 Howard 0.0 .000 .000 0.0 0.0 44 Foster 4.0 .375 .557 2.7 1.0 55 Carr 10.0 .846 .800 2.7 0.3

*--*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

LAKER STARTERS

No. 41, Forward: Elden Campbell

No. 5, Forward: Robert Horry

No. 34, Center: Shaquille O'Neal

No. 6, Guard: Eddie Jones

No. 9, Guard: Nick Van Exel

*

UTAH STARTERS

No. 14, Forward: Karl Malone

No. 3, ForwardL Byron Russell

No. 00, Center: Greg Ostertag

No. 14, Guard: Jeff Hornacek

No. 12, Guard: John Stockton

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