Lakers improvise over Jazz in win
LOS ANGELES ” The Lakers won the West in a runaway and they stuck to a similar script in their playoff opener.
Kobe Bryant scored 24 points, Trevor Ariza added 21 and Pau Gasol 20 as Los Angeles defeated the Utah Jazz 113-100 Sunday.
Allowing a Phil Jackson-coached team to win Game 1 of any series doesn’t bode well for the opposition. Jackson’s teams improved to 42-0 in series openers, including 18-0 with the Lakers.
The Lakers wrapped up the top seed in the Western Conference with 2 1/2 weeks remaining in the regular season, and eventually won the West by 11 games.
They pretty much had their way against the Jazz, leading by 22 points at halftime and then answered resoundingly both times Utah got within nine in the second half.
Bryant’s total gave him 3,710 career postseason points, moving him past Magic Johnson and into ninth on the NBA’s list. He trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (4,070) and Jerry West (4,457) for most points in the playoffs with the Lakers.
Carlos Boozer led the Jazz with 27 points and Deron Williams added 16 points and a career playoff-high 17 assists. Both were in foul trouble, with Boozer getting his third just before halftime when Williams already had two.
The Jazz sorely missed Mehmet Okur, who sat out with a mild right hamstring strain. He averages 17 points and 7.5 rebounds and gives Utah a much-needed inside presence against the Lakers’ twin 7-footers, Andrew Bynum and Gasol.
Bynum had seven points and three rebounds playing in foul trouble most of the game.
The Jazz were 15-26 on the road during the regular season, and their luck at Staples Center isn’t any better. The Lakers have won 10 in a row, including playoff games, at home against them.
The Jazz outscored the Lakers 33-24 in the third quarter to trail 86-73 going into the final 12 minutes. They opened the quarter on a 9-0 run, then a 9-2 burst got them to 72-63, their first single-digit deficit since late in the opening quarter.
But Bryant scored three in a row and Shannon Brown hit a 3-pointer that kept the Lakers ahead by 13.
The Jazz got to 98-89 on a 3-pointer by Andrei Kirilenko with 5:46 remaining in the game. Bryant answered with four points in a row and Gasol hit two free throws that pushed the lead back to 13 points.
Williams stole the ball from Bryant to start the game and the Jazz hit three quick shots to take their largest lead of four points.
It was all Lakers after that.
Bryant spent the first quarter getting his teammates involved, dishing off to Ariza and Brown for 3-pointers, and the Lakers built a 30-10 lead while shooting 71 percent.
Bryant sat down to start the second quarter while Lamar Odom and Bynum combined to score the Lakers’ first 12 points, stretching their lead to 42-29. Twice the Jazz got within 10 in that span, but the Lakers took off on a 20-8 scoring binge the second time.
Bryant contributed by reeling off nine consecutive points before Luke Walton’s 3-pointer gave the Lakers a 62-40 halftime lead.
The Jazz struggled on 35 percent shooting from the floor, and hit just 1-of-7 from 3-point range in the half.
Notes: Lakers coach Phil Jackson is breaking with his playoff tradition of wearing the most recent championship ring from his collection of nine NBA titles. “I’m tired of wearing that ring,” he said about his 2002 bauble. “I’ve been wearing it for seven years now.” … Utah coach Jerry Sloan, Bryant and Odom each received technical fouls. … Lakers G Jordan Farmar played despite tendinitis in his right pinky toe. … Kanye West, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Eddie Murphy and Kelsey Grammar were among the celebs at the game.
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