Reasons the Jazz can beat the Lakers
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Man, everybody's being so negative around here.

Even though it's not my job to motivate anyone, they all have to motivate themselves, let's punch it up and consider the top 10 reasons the Jazz will beat the Lakers:

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OK, that was encouraging.

Maybe let's back it up and bring it down and, as Jerry Sloan said the other day, "lower the expectations a little bit." Let's examine the ways in which the Jazz can make a stronger showing in the playoffs than they did in the astonishingly pathetic close to the regular season.

Remember, keep it positive. Let's keep our composure. Up with hope, down with dopes.

Where were we?

I got one: Deron Williams can dominate his realm in this series. He's the best point guard on the floor, by a long shot, by a medium-range shot, by a driving layup. He could score 30 points a game, and he might have to in order to keep the margins respectable.

One of the only bright spots for the Jazz this season was Williams' continued development. Some have blamed him for a lack of leadership during the Jazz's late-season collapse, but how much more could he have done? He scored, he passed, he tried to play defense, although, at times, that didn't work out all that well.

He is unquestionably the greatest thing the Jazz have going for them, a tough point guard whose desire to win matches his considerable talents.

Williams gets ticked off when the Jazz lose, as though it is a personal affront. And that's a powerful quality, as long as he can manage it and channel it toward teammates who don't always share the same drive. He's maturing still, but long ago grew up enough to be the main beam for the Jazz in a series like this.

Nobody on the Lakers can match up with him on their defensive end, with the exception of Kobe Bryant, who might be playing against Williams over shorter stretches, but he'll likely be wrapped up in other concerns.

Here's another: They can knock the bejeebers out of the Lakers. L.A. is a growling offensive V8 that will blow the doors off the Jazz's vulnerable defense -- unless the Jazz drop some debris on the open road. Bryant already acknowledged that the Jazz are physical, which is an NBA code word for dirty, saying he thought that kind of test would be good for his team.

Then, give him and his team the goods. Give them Matt Harpring. Give them Jarron Collins. Give them Paul Millsap. Give them ... um, Harpring and Collins and Millsap. And more ... Harpring and Collins and Millsap. Are there any other nasty players on the Jazz anymore? Give them the spirit of a Karl Malone elbow. The Jazz can recapture that. It's an ugly way to play, but not as ugly as having the Lakers put 125 points on them nightly.

Williams attempted this at Staples Center on Tuesday night with a stiff pick and an unaffected stare. Now, will Mehmet Okur find it within himself to jab Pau Gasol in the breadbasket when he goes up for a jumper? How about Andrei Kirilenko giving the business to Andrew Bynum? And Carlos Boozer manning up to bang on Lamar Odom ... or, at least, yell, "Hey!" real loud as he flies on by.

If the Jazz are seen as sturdy and dirty, they should live up to the tag. Even more important, they can and should try hard. Effort is the one characteristic Jazz fans have always required.

Losing they can handle, punting they can't.

Nobody's asking for miracles here, just a little self-respect.

That much the Jazz can give and earn back.

Against the Lakers, their assets and prospects are limited and inferior.

But if they play hard, every one of them, if the Jazz rebound and execute their typically formidable offense, and attempt to play defense, up to their imperfect capabilities, they can push the Lakers, take a couple of games from them, make them worry and work, cause Phil Jackson to whine, just like the old days.

These days, for the Jazz, that's the definition of optimism, about as positive as anybody can get.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Monson and Graham Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at gmonson@sltrib.com.