Lakers Gameday | 05/16/08 | Lakers 108, Jazz 105 (Lakers Win Series 4-2)
Bryant, Lakers Hold Off Jazz, Reach West Finals
SALT LAKE CITY, May 16 (AP) - Kobe Bryant scored 34 points and Los Angeles held off a furious rally by the Utah Jazz for a 108-105 victory Friday night, putting the Lakers in the Western Conference finals for the first time in four years.
The Jazz trailed by 19 at halftime and 16 at the end of the third quarter, but hit a flurry of 3-pointers to get within two points in the final minute. The Jazz had a chance to tie it at the end, but Mehmet Okur and Deron Williams missed 3-pointers in the closing seconds and Utah's season was over.
It was the only win by the visiting team in the series and kept the Lakers from having to host a Game 7 on Monday, instead giving Bryant a chance to rest his ailing back. The Lakers made 11 of 13 foul shots in the fourth quarter while barely holding off Utah's rally.
Bryant also had eight rebounds and six assists. Pau Gasol added 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers, who get to sit back and wait for the winner of the San Antonio-New Orleans series, which will be decided with a Game 7 on Monday.
Williams led Utah with 21 points and 14 assists.
Carlos Boozer had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Okur had 16 points and 10 boards, hitting two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter during Utah's comeback. The Jazz were 5-for-8 from beyond the arc in the final period, but could not quite overcome the huge lead the Lakers had built through the first three quarters.
Los Angeles stopped Utah's pick-and-roll and just about everything else the Jazz tried inside until the fourth. The Jazz started hurrying outside shots, which weren't going in and the rebounds seemed to always bounce Gasol's way. Nine of his 11 rebounds in the first half were defensive.
Utah finally started hitting from the perimeter and getting inside the lane for points in the fourth, but Bryant kept the Lakers from blowing the lead by scoring 12 in the period.
Bryant's back seized up on him early in Game 4 here, when the Jazz tied the series 2-2 with two straight home wins. Bryant's back was better when the Lakers won Game 5 at home, and on Friday he was showing his MVP form again. Bryant went 9-for-19 from the floor and made 15 of 17 free throws.
The Lakers took 13 more foul shots than the Jazz, getting sent to the line repeatedly as the Jazz tried to make up the deficit. They finished 31-for-38.
Gasol and Lamar Odom shut down the lane as the Lakers pulled ahead and rattled the Jazz as they had in the first two games of the series in Los Angeles. Gasol blocked four shots and Odom blocked one and had nine rebounds.
Reserve Paul Millsap added 15 points for Utah and led the Jazz on a 14-5 run early in the fourth quarter that set up the frantic finish.
Williams made a reverse layup to cut it to 91-80, then the Lakers turned it over again when Boozer stepped in front of Gasol to deflect a pass and start another break for Utah, which Millsap finished with another dunk to make it 91-82. It was the first time the lead was single digits since the Lakers led 20-12.
After a timeout by the Lakers, Bryant was called for an offensive foul for an elbow to Matt Harpring. Harpring drew another foul on Bryant at the other end and made both free throws to get Utah within 93-86, but Bryant answered with a 3-pointer to put the Lakers back up by 10 and slow UUtah's run.
The Lakers led 101-91 with about two minutes left when the Jazz made their last-gasp push. Okur hit two 3-pointers, then Andrei Kirilenko hit another to cut the lead to 103-100 after Millsap blocked a layup by Bryant. Odom hit two free throws, followed by another 3 by Kirilenko, then Bryant hit two more from the line to make it 107-103 with 15.5 seconds left.
The Jazz went for a quick two points and scored on a dunk by Williams, then got a break when Derek Fisher went 1-for-2 from the line. Utah just needed a 3-pointer and got two off, but missed both and the buzzer sounded.
Fisher, who played in Utah last season, and Williams hugged after the horn and the Utah fans cheered the Jazz loudly as they left the floor for the final time.
Notes: The Lakers improved to 36-1 when winning first two games of best-of-seven series. ... Los Angeles had not clinched a series on the road since completing a sweep of New Jersey in the 2002 NBA finals. ... Utah was 37-4 at home this season and 4-2 in the playoffs.Copyright 2007 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited
Happy to be home, the Utah Jazz are desperate for another chance on the road.
Utah hosts Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, who lead 3-2 and can wrap it up by becoming the first road team to win in the series.
Los Angeles won at home 111-104 Wednesday night to move within a victory of clinching. The Jazz had their most competitive road performance of the series, but still couldn't overcome the Lakers -- even as Kobe Bryant played conservatively with a bad back.
If the Jazz lose Friday, they won't get another chance.
"If we lose, we go home," forward Matt Harpring said. "We certainly don't want to lose on our home court the last game of the year. No way."
The Lakers have the advantage of knowing a loss won't end their season. They also know that eventually Bryant's back will be healthy enough for him to drive to the basket again. But the best thing for Bryant's back would be ending this series as soon as possible and letting him rest up before the Western Conference finals.
Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said Bryant and three other starters sat out Thursday instead of practicing. He added that Bryant, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol already know what they need to do Friday night in Utah, where the Jazz are 4-1 in the playoffs and went 37-4 in the regular season.
"The message is being under control. It's about execution at this point. It's about winning the game," Jackson said. "There's a lot of intensity. We probably have to play 10 points better than we did last night to win it."
Bryant was not available to reporters Thursday afternoon.
Odom said Bryant's performance in Game 5 was an example for the rest of the Lakers. The league MVP's back stiffened up in the fourth quarter and he did not attempt a field goal in the period, but still finished with 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
"Incredible, as always," Odom said. "Kobe made plays for us when he needed to."
The Jazz were pretty relaxed at practice Thursday morning, although still unhappy about Gasol's offensive rebound and dunk to put the Lakers up 107-102 with 20 seconds remaining in Game 5. The Jazz felt Gasol shoved Mehmet Okur in the back before grabbing the rebound, but there was no foul called.
"You can't worry about that. If you keep that in your craw, then you're going to be affected by it in the next game," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "The biggest thing to do is to wipe it out and get ready to go tomorrow night."
The Jazz couldn't blame the loss on Gasol's late rebound. It was one of six he pulled down in the game and all six were on offense.
Utah had several other missed opportunities, but still was within one point in the final minutes.
"You watch the tape of the game, you wish you could jump in the screen and play it all over again," said Carlos Boozer, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds. "I thought we had the opportunity to take the lead a few times, and looking back on it, it's definitely frustrating. You put the pressure on the home team if you get the lead."
Boozer said he and guard Deron Williams watched video from the game on the flight home. As difficult as it was, he said the Jazz showed they could hang with the Lakers in Los Angeles and would be confident playing a Game 7 there.
Now, they just have to force one.
"We've got two left with them," Boozer said. "We've got to win tomorrow night to have the second one."
After making the Western Conference finals a year ago, the Jazz face getting knocked out one round earlier.
The Jazz are 1-1 when hosting a Game 6 and trailing 3-2 in the last 10 years. The victory came in the first round a year ago when the Jazz beat the Rockets in Utah, then won the seventh game on the road.
The loss isn't a pleasant memory.
It was the 1998 NBA finals, when the Jazz had won in Chicago to pull within 3-2, then lost the series at home when Michael Jordan hit a jumper from the top of the key in the final seconds.
Jordan was the MVP that season. Bryant was the MVP this year. The Jazz want the similarities to end there.
"I think it's exciting myself. I always have loved to be in those situations. If you like to play, what better position could you be in?" Sloan said. "They have to come and beat us, and we hope we don't beat ourselves."
Sloan was coaching Utah in that series and could rely on veterans John Stockton and Karl Malone to counter Jordan and the Bulls. He has a considerably younger team this year, led by third-year point guard Williams.
Williams has been averaging nearly 23 points and 11 assists in this series. He scored 27 on Wednesday and had 10 assists.
The rest of the Jazz haven't been as consistent. Sloan said he was disappointed in some outside shots his players took quickly Wednesday night instead of setting up the offense and giving the inside players a chance at the rebound.
But he said overall, the Jazz's composure has improved each game.
"We're tough enough," Sloan said. "I think we've grown a lot in that area."
Utah forward Andrei Kirilenko missed practice Thursday to deal with visa details for a summer trip to France, according to agent Marc Fleisher. Fleisher said Kirilenko had to take care of the visa, which is required because he is a Russian citizen, on Thursday or wait another month.
The Jazz said that Kirilenko was expected to play Friday.Copyright 2007 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited
(Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images)
NOTES & CONNECTIONS
The Lakers won their season series with Utah (3-1) for the second consecutive season, having taken last season’s series with the Jazz (2-1) as well. The Jazz and Lakers have now met 143 times in the regular season (91-52), 125 times since the Jazz moved to Utah (78-47). The Lakers have gone 6-4 in their last 10 overall games with the Jazz. The Lakers are 14-3 all-time against the Jazz at STAPLES Center (12-2 in their last 14 home games). In Utah, the Lakers are 3-3 in their last six road games and have gone 4-6 in their last 10 games at EnergySolutions Arena overall. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 21-10 against Utah. Last season, the Lakers scored a series record 132 points in a 132-102 victory over the Jazz 11/30/06 in their lone game at STAPLES Center, improving upon the old mark of 131 points achieved at Utah on December 4, 1986. Additionally in that game, Kobe Bryant established a new series-high with 52 points against the Jazz, surpassing his own record of 43 points (3/22/05) while also bettering Adrian Dantley’s Jazz mark of 50 established in November of 1979. Bryant’s 30-point third quarter tied his own franchise record and is tied for the fourth-highest scoring quarter in NBA history. In 40 games against the Jazz (32 starts), Bryant is averaging 26.0 points. In their meeting on 12/28/07 Bryant scored his 1,000th career point against the Jazz and is averaging 33.3 points against Utah over the last two seasons and 29.8 points this season against the Jazz. Additionally, Lakers guard Derek Fisher played last season for Utah, appearing in all 82 games, starting 61 and averaging 10.1 points and 3.3 assists in 27.9 minutes.
LAKERS vs. UTAH IN THE POSTSEASON
JACKSON-LED TEAMS A TOUGH OUT AFTER WINNING GAME 1
CLOSING IT OUT
Overall, under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are now 17-10 in close-out games. The Lakers have won 22 of their last 23 series when holding the opportunity to close-out at any point. Their last series loss when having a close-out game came in 2006 when the Lakers squandered a 3-1 series lead against the Phoenix Suns. Prior to that, the Lakers had not lost a series when having a close-out game since their 1993 First Round meeting with Phoenix in which they led 2-0 before ultimately losing the next three straight and the series.Click here to read the full Game Notes