NBA

Kobe leads Lakers to rout of Jazz in Game 1

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The Canadian Press
4/20/2009 3:17:31 AM
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LOS ANGELES -- Pardon Phil Jackson's lack of enthusiasm for how the Los Angeles Lakers played in the second half. They piled up 62 points on Utah in the first half, then got outscored over the final 24 minutes.

"It wasn't a coach's delight, that's for sure," he said.

But his players sure liked the outcome, a 113-100 victory over the Jazz in the teams' playoff opener Sunday.

Kobe Bryant scored 24 points, Trevor Ariza added 21 and Pau Gasol 20 as the Lakers pretty much had their way against the eighth-seeded Jazz. They led by 22 points at halftime and then answered resoundingly both times Utah got within nine in the second half.

"They kept knocking on the door and we just never let them in," Bryant said.

Allowing a Phil Jackson-coached team to win Game 1 of any series doesn't bode well for the opposition. Jackson's teams have never lost a playoff series after winning Game 1, going 41-for-41 with Chicago and the Lakers.

"We had a very difficult time," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "We gave up 62 points in the first half and it's virtually impossible to beat this team giving them an edge."

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.

"I didn't shoot the ball too well," Williams said. "I did a good job getting in the lane and distributing the basketball, I just couldn't finish."

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.

"We were just a step slow," Sloan said. "They kicked our butt off the floor."

He questioned his young team's toughness, a trait Utah has rarely lacked during the Hall of Fame coach's tenure.

"We're not a nasty team," Sloan said. "Most of the teams that we've had here have been pretty nasty and they will get after you from daylight to dark. We're just learning how to get after it a little bit more as we go along with younger guys.

"Part of that's my fault. I probably haven't been nasty enough with them."

Bryant wasn't buying Sloan's assessment.

"I'm a game connoisseur, so I know how nasty Sloan was when he was playing," he said. "Pardon my French, but your (rear) would be kicked out of the league if you played that physical now. I'm sure he's using it as a motivational tool to get those guys to play even harder."

They'll need to at Staples Center.

The Jazz were 15-26 on the road during the regular season, and the Lakers have now beaten them 10 in a row at home, including playoff games.

Bryant spent the first quarter getting his teammates involved before putting his own mark on the game.

His total gave Bryant 3,710 career post-season 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.

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 three-pointer that kept the Lakers ahead by 13.

The Jazz got to 98-89 on a three-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.

The teams combined to make 67 trips to the free throw line.

"A lot of free throws. Anytime you get to the line it stops the momentum," Bryant said. "It doesn't enable us to get out on transition. It was a stop-and-go game, and that's exactly the style of basketball that they play."

That's what Jackson disliked, especially Utah's 20-7 edge on the offensive boards.

"Foul after foul after foul," he said. "Rebounds, offensive rebounds, those are the things we harped on all week about having to watch that particular aspect of our game."

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 dished off to Ariza and Brown for three-pointers, and the Lakers built a 30-10 lead while shooting 71 per cent.

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 per cent shooting from the floor, and hit just 1-of-7 from three-point range in the half.

"We kind of looked like deer in the headlights to start," Sloan said. "I was kind of shocked."

Notes: 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." ... 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.

Kobe Bryant (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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