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Alarm Call for the Lakers Bench

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A caller named Israel on the Jim Rome radio show diagnosed the Laker bench perfectly. The bench is awful because they like being on the bench while most other teams’ benches want to be in the starting lineup.

Given an eight-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter the bench decided the paint was too much to handle and settled for jump shots missing all of them while the Jazz came up with two important steals. After Paul Millsap made a layup when Ronnie Price stole the ball from Lamar Odom to bring the Jazz to within a point, coach Phil Jackson had enough and brought in his starters.

“The second unit has to play better,” Kobe Bryant said in a press conference after the game. “It’s as simple as that.”

“I thought our bench really let us down a little bit in the fourth quarter,” Jackson added. “Not so much offensively although things went wrong for them. Just the types of shots they gave up and the charge that Utah put in their game.”

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Watching the bench play is an exercise in frustration for fans. They seem perfectly content jacking up jump shot after jump shot while not learning from their past mistakes. And on the off occasion they do get into the paint, they’re usually running so fast and out of control they lose the ball. I’m looking at your Jordan Farmar.

They make the same mistakes over and over again and seem to treat their playing minutes as exhibition time. Look at this crazy three-pointer I’m going to make! Look at my foot-speed and nifty moves as I get into the paint!

Two years ago in the playoffs Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum did a feature on the bench players celebrating their role in the Lakers most recent renaissance. In the NBA Finals against the odious Boston Celtics, they were hardly mentioned aside from being noted making a cheap foul. Perhaps it was their complacency in being recognized, but since that article while their heads have increased in size their play has made them shrinking violets on the biggest stages. They need to start using those heads, however inflated they may be, and pull their weight.

This doesn’t mean the Lakers are in any danger of losing this series. Phil Jackson coached teams are 5,000,000-0 in series in which they win Game 1, and this Utah team is missing Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko - two key components that make them a dangerous team.

The Lakers really had no problem beating them this season or in the last two postseasons.

No. The Lakers are going to win this series in five games, though as with any Jerry Sloane Jazz team they will go down clawing and scratching.

The Lakers shouldn’t even be challenged in the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs either.

But in the NBA Finals when they face the Cleveland Cavaliers or Orlando Magic, the Laker bench will have to show up and be focused on defense while not taking ill-advised jump shots that lead to easy transition points for the opponent.

Most of all, they need to stop making wise men out of callers to the Jim Rome radio show.

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