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Lakers come out full strength in Game 1 win

By Bryan Chu, for
Posted Sunday May 2, 2010 9:23PM

LOS ANGELES ( exclusive) -- For the time being, Kobe Bryant appeared to be his old self.

He had the lift. He had the explosiveness. He had the ability to drive past his defender.

With the Lakers trailing in the final minutes of Game 1 in the Western Conference semifinals, Bryant shouldered the offensive burden scoring 10 of his team's final 14 points, lifting the Lakers to a 104-99 victory Sunday at Staples Center.

"That's the makeup of our team," Ron Artest said. "Every team has an identity. You know at the end of the game Kobe is going to step it up."

Bryant finished with a game-high 31 points on 12-for-19 shooting, marking the first time he has had back-to-back 30-point games in nearly two months.

"It's a lot better," said Bryant of his right knee, which has given him problems recently. "It's very encouraging for me to be able to move around and do what I want to do."

The Lakers are again off to a positive start, and under Lakers coach Phil Jackson when his team takes a 1-0 series advantage in any length of series his teams are 45-0 (Bulls 24-0, Lakers 21-0).

With Game 2 on Tuesday, the Jazz have to figure out quickly how to win on the road. They have now lost nine straight.

A positive the Jazz took out of defeat was climbing back into the game after getting down early.

Trailing 81-73 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Jazz took advantage of the Lakers second unit.

Paul Millsap, who had 16 points, scored six points during the team's opening 12-1 run to take an 85-82 advantage with 6:31 to go. That was Utah's first lead since the 8:50 mark in the first quarter.

"They didn't (do a good job)," said Bryant of the second unit. "They have to figure it out."

Added Lamar Odom: "I am disappointed in our energy today. Our collective energy as a unit is really suspect.

"We have not played well as a group recently and if we don't get it together soon then you know..."

The Lakers found themselves down by as many as four in the final minutes, but then Bryant took over, scoring six straight to give the Lakers a 96-93 lead with 1:20 left.

"It is kind of repetitive," said Deron Williams, who had a team-high 24 points and eight assists. "Like I said, we had a chance to win this game. Couldn't get a stop. Kobe hit some unbelievable shots and that's pretty much it."

Williams hit a pair of free throws to trim the deficit to 96-95. But then Odom, who had nine and 12 rebounds, had a key offensive putback and Bryant continued to abuse Wesley Matthews down the stretch for 13 fourth quarter points.

Another Laker who deserved credit was Pau Gasol for his play.

Gasol finished with 25 points on 9-for-15 from the field. He had 12 rebounds and tied a playoff career high with five blocks. Derek Fisher also had a solid game with 10 points and five steals.

While both teams are well aware of one another's game this being their third consecutive postseason, the Lakers did throw a different look at the Jazz: Artest guarding Williams.

After the game, Carlos Boozer, who finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, said the Jazz need to do a better job going to that matchup. Williams echoed that testament as well.

"I have a quickness advantage over him and I'm going to use that to exploit the matchup," Williams said.

When Artest was told about Williams' words of exploiting him, Artest seemed offended.

"That's the first time somebody ever talked to me like that," he said. "I don't know what to do. What to say.

He can exploit me, but it's about the team. I don't care. Exploit me? ... Don't worry about exploiting me, worry about stopping one of the greatest players to ever play (Kobe). I don't know why he wants to pick on me. I didn't do anything...Deron is picking on me."

Coming into Sunday's game, the status of Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who re-aggravating a tear in the meniscus of his right knee during Friday's Thunder game, was in question.

As he went up and down the court, Bynum labored noticeably. He also had little lift.

"It is there with me every step," said Bynum, who had eight points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes. "But it is the kind of thing that I can play through till the end of the season."

Jazz forward Andre Kirilenko missed Sunday's game with a strained left calf, but told said he is 50-50 for Tuesday's Game 2.

"It feels great," Kirilenko said. "Everyday it's gradually getting better. Probably Tuesday. I'm definitely going to have limited minutes. It's going to be 50 percent, but definitely by Game 3.

"Right now I'm working on it to get it strong. It's still weak and some of my movement is a little slow."

This game appeared to get out of hand early.

The defending champions converted 14 of their first 16 shots. Los Angeles went on a 14-4 run and led by as many as 14 after shooting a blistering 78.9 percent from the field.

"We got off to a terrible start," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "I hope we come out with a lot more intensity to start the game."

The Jazz seemed doomed from the start.

On the first play of the game, Williams, who was already dealing with a bruised left elbow, went down grimacing in pain and holding his right shoulder. Williams tried sweeping his arms through Fisher's defense and went up for a shot. At the end of the quarter, he tweaked his left ankle after Fisher fell on his foot trying to dive for a loose ball.

"Yeah I'm beat up," Williams said. "It's not a big deal. I'll be ready to go next game."

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