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Carlos Boozer came alive for the Jazz on Friday, notching 27 points and 20 boards to help Utah hand the Lakers their first defeat of the playoffs.
Utah 104, L.A. Lakers 99
SALT LAKE CITY, May 9 (AP) -- So much for Carlos Boozer's slump. So much for the Lakers' unbeaten run through the playoffs.
Boozer scored 27 points and tied a career playoff-high with 20 rebounds to lead Utah to a 104-99 victory Friday night, cutting Los Angeles' lead in the Western Conference semifinals to 2-1.
The Jazz handed the Lakers their first loss of this season's playoffs and got back into the series by doing at home what they couldn't do on the road. The Jazz hit exactly half their shots and forced the Lakers into 18 turnovers, looking very little like the team that stumbled through two straight losses in Los Angeles to open the series.
"We competed very hard, much better than we did over there. That's what happens with a young team," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "We made mistakes but we kept playing hard. Before, we made mistakes and we felt sorry for ourselves. Tonight we kept playing hard."
The Jazz took the lead early in the second quarter and never gave it up. Utah held off a late push by the Lakers and league MVP Kobe Bryant, who had 34 points, seven assists and six rebounds but could not carry the team alone. Nobody else scored more than 13 points for Los Angeles.
Utah's offense was stagnant in the first two games, but on Friday the Jazz started hitting from the outside and moving the ball around enough to clear the inside for the layups their offense is designed to create. Boozer started slowly, but finished 12-for-21 and had 11 points and seven rebounds in the fourth quarter.
Boozer's 27 points were two more than he scored in the first two games combined.
"I tried to stop thinking so much out there. My teammates were waiting for a big game out of me and I was too. ... I had to play thought-free and just react and play," he said.
Deron Williams added 18 points and 12 assists for the Jazz, who host Game 4 Sunday afternoon and like their chances to even the series. The Jazz had the best home record in the regular season (37-4) and are 4-1 in the playoffs. Home teams are 11-0 in the four conference semifinals.
"It was just a solid game for us tonight," Williams said. "We pushed the ball in transition and got some easy things going. guys were hitting shots and our confidence kept carrying over."
The Lakers were 6-0 entering Friday's game. After falling behind by 13 points, the Lakers made several runs in the second half and got as close as three points. Utah always came up with a steal, block or rebound to end the threat.
"We clawed back but you can't turn the ball over so many times," Bryant said. "We had a lot of open looks and you can sustain a game like that if you don't turn the ball over."
Utah went 39-for-78 from the field and overcame Los Angeles' advantage from the foul line. The Jazz took nine fewer free throws than the Lakers, but went 20-for-28 from the line. Utah outscored Los Angeles 48-36 in the paint and finished with 22 points off turnovers.
"This team is good enough for us to lose to and we have to understand that and play our best game at all times," said Lamar Odom, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers. "We could have lost to anyone playing like that."
Derek Fisher scored 13 points for the Lakers exactly one year after he had one of the most memorable moments in Jazz history.
Friday was the anniversary of Fisher's dramatic third-quarter entrance for the Jazz in an overtime win over Golden State. Fisher had flown from New York, where his daughter was receiving treatment for a cancerous eye tumor. He got a standing ovation in that game, but on Friday was booed with the rest of the Lakers.
In the end, the Jazz left it up to Boozer, who scored almost half of Utah's 25 fourth-quarter points.
"I think he finally got over that hump. That's big," Williams said. "That's what we're going to need. It just takes so much pressure off everybody else when he's playing like that."
Los Angeles went on a 6-0 run to get within 95-92, then Boozer went to work. He hit a hook shot over Luke Walton in the lane to put Utah up 97-92, then Bryant lost the ball while falling and didn't get the foul call he wanted. The Jazz used 23 of the 24 seconds they had on the shot clock and Boozer made a shot over Odom.
After Bryant missed a 3-point attempt, the Jazz got the rebound and went to Boozer again for a 101-92 lead with 1:57 left.
Walton hit a 3-pointer with 1:08 left to get Los Angeles within 103-97, then Bryant made two from the line to get the Lakers within four.
The Jazz missed again at the other end, but the Lakers bobbled the ball, too, and Williams crashed to the floor for a loose ball and forced a jump ball. The guard didn't stand a chance against Lakers center Pau Gasol, but it ate up time and the Lakers turned it over again. "I told the guys they made a good comeback but they just couldn't make the plays at the end," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Notes: The Jazz outscored Lakers in the paint 24-14 in first half. ... Utah made eight of its first 10 shots in the second quarter. ... Bryant was 14-for-17 from the line. ... Walton finished with 11 points.