In Salt Lake City, The Bottle Hits You

The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who would like to abuse his position to give a public shout-out to his buddy Dave, who just got his Master's Degree from Purdue University. Way to go, Dave! When he's not making with the gratuitous congratulations, he can be found trimming his unibrow at Basketbawful. Enjoy!

Lakers get Boozed up. Is the Carlos Boozer Playoff Slump finally over? It sure looked like it last night. The Boozman dropped in 27 points (12-for-21) and snatched a career playoff-high-tying 20 rebounds, and the Jazz gave the Lakers a 104-99 hangover. The kind with a throbbing headache and crippling diarrhea. Oh, and increased sensitivity to light. I always hate that part.

How'd Carlos break the jinx? Why, he just pretended he was the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. "I tried to stop thinking so much out there. My teammates were waiting for a big game out of me and I was too. ... I had to play thought-free and just react and play." I guess thinking really is overrated.

Utah did some other things right, too. The Jazz hit 50 percent of their shots (39-for-78). They forced 18 turnovers and won the Battle of the Paint 48-36. And, most importantly, they held the Lakers under 40 freethrow attempts for a change (L.A. was 30-for-37 from the stripe). Mehmet Okur contributed 22 points and 7 rebounds, and he was 4-for-7 from three-point range. Deron Williams hurt his wrist - don't worry; the X-rays were negative - but still finished with 18 points and 12 assists.

Kobe Bryant was once again MVP-like in the box score (34 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists) and from the foul line (14-for-17), but nobody else really stood out for the Lakers. However, I'm going to throw some numbers at you anyway. Lamar Odom had a double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds), Pau Gasol had 12 points and 6 boards, and Derek Fisher added 13 points. But Kobe, Gasol and Odom combined to throw the ball away 12 times ... which in part led to Utah's 22 points off of turnovers. And that was a problem.

Said Kobe: "We clawed back but you can't turn the ball over so many times. We had a lot of open looks and you can sustain a game like that if you don't turn the ball over."

Lamar Odom had this to add: "This team is good enough for us to lose to and we have to understand that." Was...that a compliment? Or not? I mean, a hole is hole-like enough for me to fall into, but what does that even mean? Never mind. I'll just go back to sniffing glue now.

Fun fact: Boozer's performance was the first 20-20 playoff game by a Jazz player since Karl Malone had 32 points and 20 rebounds against the Lakers in 1997.