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Baldwin's seven-minute monologue, in which he pulls out a pair of brass balls and tells Jack Lemmon to put down his cup of coffee because "Coffee's for closers," is not only the high-water mark of Baldwin's acting career but usually brings out the best in the Lakers, who have now won their past five closeout opportunities. "That's what we stand by," said Lakers forward Lamar Odom after the game. "ABC, Always Be Closing. That's something that we stand by." No closeout game, however, is as rare for the Lakers as one to complete a sweep, which they did against the Jazz in a 111-96 victory in Utah to advance to the Western Conference finals for the third consecutive year. The result may have been expected after the Lakers took a 3-0 series lead Saturday but hasn't been as common as you might think. As rich as the Lakers' history is, the team has only completed 13 sweeps in 100 best-of-seven series since its first season in 1948-49. The Jazz, meanwhile, had never been swept in a seven-game series in their history, despite advancing to the postseason all but three times since 1984. You knew the Lakers were going to win this series; you just didn't expect them to make history and reinvent themselves in the process.
|Carlos Boozer shakes Kobe Bryant's hand as he exits the court knowing his Jazz just got swept for the first time in team history.|
Los Angeles certainly did that against the Jazz, jumping out to a 22-point lead in the second quarter before allowing the Jazz to come back in the third quarter and cut the lead to five points. That would be as much of a consolation prize as the Jazz and their fans would get, as the Lakers pushed their lead back out to 22 in the fourth quarter and sent fans heading for the exits before the end of the game. The Lakers will now move on to play the Suns, who eliminated them from the first round of the playoffs in 2006 and '07 before the Lakers began their current run at three consecutive conference finals. Back then the Lakers were a one-man show, with Kwame Brown instead of Pau Gasol in the paint. Clearly a lot has changed since the days when Smush Parker was running the point, but the memories of losing a 3-1 series lead to the Suns in 2006 still remains fresh in Odom's mind. "I'm like an elephant. I don't forget much," said Odom with a smile when asked about possible payback against the Suns. The Suns series was one of the few times in Jackson's tenure when Baldwin's motivational speech didn't work no matter how many times he replayed it. "I remember he kept playing that when we had a 3-1 series lead against Phoenix," Luke Walton said. "We're better closers now." Arash Markazi is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com