Los Angeles 111, Utah 104 (F)

LOS ANGELES, May 15 (AP) -- So much for Kobe Bryant's sore lower back.

Bryant scored 26 points, his teammates kept Utah at bay down the stretch, and Los Angeles Lakers extended the stunning home success by NBA teams in the second round of the playoffs, beating the Jazz 111-104 on Wednesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Lakers, who never trailed, can advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2004 with a victory Friday night in Utah. But if form prevails, the teams will be playing a seventh and deciding game Monday night at Staples Center, where Los Angeles has a 17-3 record against the Jazz since the arena opened before the 1999-2000 season.

Home teams have won 19 of the 20 games played in the second round. The Lakers are the top-seeded team in the Western Conference, meaning they have home-court advantage through the first three rounds of the postseason.

"That's what you play for,'' Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said before the game. "When you start off the season, you want to try and get the home-court advantage because I think it's been pretty big in this league.''

Lakers coach Phil Jackson fell short of calling Game 5 a must-win for his team beforehand, but added: "We held serve (in the first two games), they held serve (in the second two), now it's time for us to hold serve. That's what this is all about.''

Bryant tweaked his back in the opening minutes of Sunday's 123-115 overtime loss at Utah that tied the series. Sore back and all, he had 33 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists while playing 46 minutes.

The MVP didn't practice Monday or Tuesday, resting and receiving treatment. Clearly, it never occurred to him that he might be seriously hindered in Game 5, much less not play.

Bryant, who also had six rebounds and seven assists, scored only three points in the fourth quarter, all from the foul line after the outcome had been decided. He didn't attempt a field goal in the final period.

Lamar Odom had 22 points and 11 rebounds, Pau Gasol added 21 points, six rebounds and eight assists, Vladimir Radmanovic scored 15 points and Derek Fisher added 14 for the Lakers, who were 17-1 during the regular season when all five starters scored in double figures.

All five Utah starters also scored in double figures led by Deron Williams, who had 27 points and 10 assists. Carlos Boozer added 18 points and 12 rebounds, Ronnie Brewer scored a career playoff-high 16 points, Mehmet Okur had 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Andrei Kirilenko scored 12 for the Jazz.

A three-point play by Odom with 6:19 remaining gave the Lakers a 97-91 lead. But the Jazz battled back, and a 3-pointer by Williams as the shot clock wound down moved the Jazz within one point with 2:18 left.

That would be as close as the Jazz would get.

Okur's basket with 59 seconds to play made it 103-102, but two baskets by Gasol extended the Lakers' lead to 107-102 with 20 seconds remaining. Williams then missed a 3-pointer, and the Jazz were done.

The Jazz, who trailed by as many as 12 points in the second quarter, outscored the Lakers 15-8 to start the second half, tying the game at 69. Bryant scored 10 points in the quarter, including his team's final six, but the game was tied 81-all entering the final period.

The game was tied for a fourth and final time early in the fourth quarter before the Lakers went ahead for good on a foul shot by Luke Walton - his only point of the game - with 9:54 to play.

After a scoreless first quarter, Gasol shot 6-for-9 and scored 15 points in the second period, helping the Lakers outscore the Jazz 32-28 for a 61-54 halftime lead. Utah trailed by only seven points despite committing 15 turnovers in the opening 24 minutes.

Bryant showed right away his back wasn't going to be a major problem, firing in a 3-pointer and another jumper in the opening 50 seconds to give the Lakers a quick 5-0 lead. The Jazz made their first four shots - all by Brewer - but trailed 15-8 thanks to five turnovers.

Radmanovic, who averaged 5.5 points in the first four games of the series, made consecutive 3-pointers to give him 10 points and the Lakers a 25-16 lead before the Jazz trimmed the deficit to 29-26 entering the second quarter.

Notes: The Lakers have won seven straight home games over Utah. ... The Lakers have won 18 of their last 21 home games in the postseason, while the Jazz have lost seven of their last nine road playoff games, including four in a row. ... The Lakers are 36-6 when winning Game 5 of a best-of-seven series and 13-17 when losing Game 5. ... Lakers G Jordan Farmar shot 2-for-5 and scored six points, including a three-point play with 8:38 remaining that gave the Lakers a 90-86 lead. The 21-year-old former UCLA star shot 1-for-16 and scored four points in the previous four games of this series. ... Utah and Boston were the only NBA teams to beat every other team at least once during the regular season.


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