Phil Jackson's Three Keys to Beating the Jazz

Phil Jackson and Mitch Kupchak sat down on Thursday for a "town hall" style meeting that was hosted by Spero Dedes, and streamed live online at It was an informal session that lasted for an hour, and as you can imagine, quite a lot of ground was covered with the two architects of this championship contender talking everything Lakers.

One particular point of interest -- with the team set to open their playoff run this Sunday at Staples Center -- was what Phil saw as the keys to stopping this Utah Jazz team from making it a series. He said there were three areas of focus:

1. Stopping Mehmet Okur, especially from three-point land.

2. Containing the penetration of Deron Williams.

3. Keeping the Jazz off the free throw line.

Okur didn't play in the season finale, but he did kill the Lakers with a three in crunch time, during Utah's home win over L.A. back in February. (Remember?) Gasol cheated off of Okur to wait for dribble penetration from Deron Williams that never came, because D-Wil was doubled on top by Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom. Obviously, Phil would have liked Gasol and Andrew Bynum to have some practice guarding a big that spends so much time on the perimeter, but at this point, game film will have to do.

Keeping Williams out of the paint is easier said than done of course, because (as Phil pointed out) the Jazz lead the league in layups and assists. Williams having big games isn't something that's going to be easy to stop, and neither is the part about the free throw line.

Utah shot a whopping 47 free throws -- in Los Angeles, no less -- in that season finale. To a man, the Jazz play physical and go hard to the basket on just about every play where they aren't shooting from three-point range or getting a wide-open look thanks to Williams' penetration. The Jazz get to the line a lot, and given their style of play, it's not something that's likely to change in the playoffs.

The good news for the Lakers is, even with the Jazz getting to the line like that, and even with Williams going for 25 points and 13 assists, L.A. came out on top in the season finale -- and led by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter on their way to doing so.

The three areas that Phil mentioned are definitely the things the Lakers want to focus on if they want to completely shut down the Jazz in their opening round playoff series. But even if they don't, it's nice to know that there's a pretty strong chance that they'll come out on top anyway.

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