Lakers 30, Jazz 19 (END of 1st)

Derek Fisher picks up two quick fouls and has to come out of the game after just two and a half minutes of play. Disaster, right? Not even close. Reserve Shannon Brown comes in, does a good job of staying with Utah’s Deron Williams and injects some life into the Lakers fast break. Trevor Ariza comes out hot, hitting two 3-pointers and converting on two fast breaks to lead the Lakers with 10 points. The Lakers shoot 71 percent in the quarter while limiting the Jazz to just 39 percent.

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Farmar will play; Okur will not

Backup point guard Jordan Farmar is in the Lakers’ lineup today. He has been suffering from pain in his right foot. A battery of tests Friday revealed nothing, and the team has termed his injury tendonitis. Farmar is on the active roster for Game 1 of the Lakers’ opening-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz, however.

Meanwhile, Jazz center Mehmet Okur will not play because of a strained right hamstring. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan did not have a guess-timate for Okur’s return. Okur did not play in the regular-season finale between the Lakers and the Jazz last Tuesday at Staples Center.

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Pau’s top-5 Europeans in the NBA

Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol made a list of his all-time, top-5 great European players who played in the NBA. It’s not a surprising list, one that relies heavily on history. Here it is:

1. Arvydas Sabonis, Lithuania.
2. Toni Kukoc, Croatia
3. Drazen Petrovic, Croatia
4. Dirk Nowitzki, Germany
5. Fernando Martin, Spain.

Gasol paused for a moment after naming Petrovic and a reporter quickly asked, “What about your brother (Marc, who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies)?”
Gasol quickly shot back, “You’re talking about all-time, right? Obviously, I have great love for my brother, but you’re talking about all-time.” Gasol picked Martin, his countryman who died in an auto accident, because “He was the first Spaniard to make it to the NBA. That’s always important. That’s always a big thing.”

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Farmar hobbling

On an otherwise slow news day, it was revealed that backup guard Jordan Farmar has tendonitis in his right foot. He had been suffering from pain lately, so the Lakers sent him for a battery of tests, including an MRI exam. Dr. Phil Kwong examined Farmar. All the tests came back normal and the Lakers are calling Farmar day-to-day.

The pain is unlikely to keep him from playing in the Lakers’ opening-round series against the Utah Jazz. It remains to be seen how much he plays, however. Lakers coach Phil Jackson has been using Shannon Brown, rather than Farmar, as the first guard off the bench in recent games. Brown could be the X-factor when it comes to checking Utah’s Deron Williams. It’s a matchup that bears monitoring when the series begins Sunday at Staples Center.

Here’s Jackson on Williams and Brown: “Deron likes to run a shoulder into a guy and run him into the lane, push him where he wants him to go,” he said. “He’s very adept at that. Shannon has a chance. I’m not saying anybody’s going to stop him, per se. It’s going to take a team to do that.”

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Bad news from Beantown

The Boston Celtics might be without Kevin Garnett for the playoffs. Not just the first round, but any and all rounds, according to Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Garnett hurt his right knee Feb. 19 and has played in only four games since then, none for more than 18 minutes. Rivers told a Boston radio station today that he shut down Garnett after watching him run for 20 minutes. “He’s not going to be ready. After watching him practice, there’s no way,” Rivers said on WEEI-AM. “The way I saw him move today, I don’t know if he’ll be ready.” Rest assured the Lakers will shed no tears for the Celtics. Playing without injured center Andrew Bynum, the Lakers lost to the Celtics in six games in the NBA Finals last June.

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First round schedule

Game 1: Utah at Lakers, noon, Sunday, Channel 7.
Game 2: Utah at Lakers, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, TNT.
Game 3: Lakers at Utah, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, TNT.
Game 4: Lakers at Utah, 6 p.m., Saturday, ESPN.
Game 5 (if nessecary): Utah at Lakers, TBA, Monday, April 27, TV TBA.
Game 6 (if nessecary): Lakers at Utah, TBA, Thursday, April 30, TV TBA.
Game 7: (if nessecary): Utah at Lakers, TBA, Saturday, May 2, TNT

Predictions: The top-seeded Lakers will defeat the eighth-seed Jazz in five games and advance to play the winner of the No. 4 Portand-No. 5 Houston series. Portland probably will beat the Rockets. No. 2 Denver will beat No. 7 New Orleans. No. 3 San Antonio will beat No. 6 Dallas.

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The Jazz’ road record

The Jazz finished 15-26 on the road this year and 33-8 at home. The Lakers were a league-best 29-12 on the road. So basically, something has to give in their first-round playoff series.

After Tuesday’s game, we were asking Kobe Bryant whether he worried about playing in Salt Lake City, one of the most difficult arenas in the league to play in.

I believe the line of questioning went like this:

Q: The Jazz are a team that are really tough to beat at home. Does it seem like their plan is to steal one of the first two games here and then take it back to their place where it’s tough to win?

Kobe: We’re not too bad on the road either…

Q: But you know where they’re coming from, right?

Kobe: I know where we’re coming from….

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Matching up with the Jazz

The Lakers won two of three games against the Utah Jazz during the regular season, taking both games at Staples Center and losing in Salt Lake City. Here’s a closer look at how the teams fared against each other and at who might play a key role during the first-round playoff series between the Lakers and the Jazz.

(By the way, the schedule will be released late tonight).

Lakers versus Jazz
Top scorer — Kobe Bryant averaged 31 points on 47.8 percent shooting.
Top rebounder — Lamar Odom averaged 9.3 rebounds.
Top playmaker — Pau Gasol averaged 4.7 assists.

Jazz versus Lakers
Top scorer — Deron Williams averaged 22 points on 48 percent shooting.
Top rebounder — Mehmet Okur averaged 10.5 rebounds.
Top playmaker — Williams averaged 12 assists.

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How mentally tough is Kobe Bryant?

You know about the killer instinct at the end of games. The dagger 3-pointers, the lockdown defense, the 10-point outbursts in the last four minutes of a game.

But what I and about two dozen of the Los Angeles media corps witnessed late Tuesday night has to rank up there with any of Bryant’s late game heroics in terms of mental toughness.

Kobe is a late-comer after games. He showers, gets treatment, changes clothes, probably even checks his e-mail before coming out to meet the press corps after games. But when he does show up he’s generally patient and engaging, so it’s worth sticking around to hear what he’s got to say.

Tonight’s session started around 11:10, and there was a whole throng of us. Probably 30 deep all around his locker. About two minutes into the session, a foul smell wafts through the room. It was bad, but not so bad you couldn’t take it. Then it got worse. Much worse. I started looking around seeing if anyone else was noticing it. Nothing. Everyone was focused on Kobe. And Kobe was focused and engaged in the interview.

Then I looked at the people around me to see if anyone had a guilty look on their face. Still nothing. I couldn’t believe no one else was smelling this. It was foul. Whoever it was either stepped in something terrible, or ate something terrible, but it was so bad you actually had to worry about whoever it was.

Vic the Brick was standing right next to me and with no one else noticing, or acting like they did it –least of all Kobe who was holding court like nothing weird was going on — I kinda had to suspect VTB or his poncho. No offense to the man, I actually find him entertaining, but he wears that Laker poncho everywhere.

This went on for a good five minutes. The smell getting worse by the minute. When finally, Kobe jumps in and says, “What the hell is that smell?”

Thank God! And Oh My God! How in the heck did he do that whole interview with that smell? Talk about mental toughness.

Afterwards, the exonerated VTB said what we were all thinking, “That just shows the iron will of the Black Mamba. He was a warrior in there.”’

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Bring on the Jazz! Lakers win 125-112

All season, the Jazz were the team no one wanted to play in the playoffs. So you wouldn’t have blamed the Lakers if they didn’t give 100 percent in the season finale Tuesday night at Staples Center…. Except that the Lakers gave about 110 percent in blasting the Jazz back to Salt Lake City.

This one turned into a rout, with the Lakers clearly stating that they don’t care who their playoff opponent is.

Game 1 will be either Saturday or Sunday at Staples Center.

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