SALT LAKE CITY -- If there was even a slight chance the Lakers would be complacent with a 3-0 lead and look ahead to the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan may have done them a favor by using a curious analogy to describe Kobe Bryant.
"He draws so much attention," Sloan said Sunday. "You give too much help, somebody else is open. If you don't give enough help, he's got what he wants; kind of like Miss America. She gets what she wants."
The Miss America comparison raised Bryant's eyebrows Sunday and caught the attention of Lakers coach Phil Jackson after shoot-around Monday.
"I think Jerry calling Kobe Miss America and comparing him to that is a message," Jackson said. "That is something we will look at."
Sloan wasn't worried how his comments were going to be perceived as much as how his players would react to being behind in the series 0-3, a deficit no NBA team has ever come back from. When he was asked if he could tell how his players would play by looking at their body language after shoot-around he simply smiled.
"I've never been able to tell that," he said. "It's hard to tell what these players are going to do. Watching players over the years I could never tell. Some guy might be jumping around here all morning long and then get the game and not be able to do anything."
Sloan does, however, have a fairly good idea how the Lakers will handle the situation.
"They'll try to put us asleep," he said. "They have the kind of veterans who have been in this situation and that's what they're ambition will but hopefully we can spoil it for them."
That sentiment was echoed by his players, who took issue with Monday's headline in the sports section of The Salt Lake Tribune that read, "All hope is lost."
Jazz point guard Deron Williams simply laughed. "I guess that's what they think," he said.
"That's terrible man," Carlos Boozer said after seeing the headline. "We've been underdogs the whole playoffs. We weren't even supposed to get to the second round, obviously we weren't supposed to beat the Denver Nuggets, we weren't supposed to win this series and we're not supposed to win this game so we don't listen to that. We just take care of ourselves. We believe in each other, we've had chances to win and hopefully we can break through tonight and get one."
The Jazz may be the only ones who think they have a chance, considering Game 4 isn't even sold out -- a full-page ad in the Tribune told fans where they could buy tickets. Few fans, it seems, wanted to come watch the Lakers make history against the Jazz.
Utah has never been swept in a seven-game series. They were swept out of a five-game first-round series against the Golden State Warriors in 1989, Sloan's first season with the team. The Lakers have orchestrated 12 sweeps in 100 best-of-seven series since 1949. The Jazz completed their last sweep in 1998 when they beat the Lakers four straight in the 1998 Western Conference Finals.
"Nobody wants to get swept," Williams said. "That's kind of embarrassing as a playoff team. So we're going to go out here and try to win this game."
Arash Markazi is a writer and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.