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Lakers jump on Jazz early, take 2-0 series lead

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The Canadian Press
4/22/2009 2:56:08 AM
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LOS ANGELES -- The Utah Jazz played better and it still didn't matter.

Kobe Bryant scored 26 points, Pau Gasol added 22 and Lamar Odom had 19 off the bench in the Lakers' 119-109 victory over the Jazz on Tuesday night, giving Los Angeles a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round Western Conference playoff series.

"We're not thinking about it being over at all," Bryant said. "We're thinking about Game 3."

The Lakers' Phil Jackson notched his 195th career post-season victory, the most of any coach in NBA history.

"It was an offensive display, not always great ballhandling, but a lot of scoring," he said. "That was a trial out there and they threw some new things at us."

But the Lakers handled the Jazz like they always have at Staples Center, sending Utah to its 11th consecutive loss, including playoff games.

Deron Williams scored a career playoff-high 35 points and Carlos Boozer had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz, who head home for Game 3 on Thursday. They again played without injured centre Mehmet Okur.

"We played a lot better in Game 2 than we did in Game 1. We still got down by a lot early but we were able to fight back," Boozer said. "We had chances to win it in the fourth quarter. They just made plays."

The Lakers' shooting sizzled in the opening quarter, but they found themselves in a tight battle throughout much of the second half.

"It's Deron Williams being a bad boy," Bryant said. "He kept them in the game and made plays."

The Lakers stretched their lead to 96-81 early in the fourth. The Jazz relied mostly on Williams, and he scored six in a row to get his team to 105-99 with 5:22 remaining.

Boozer scored five consecutive points to leave the Jazz trailing 109-106 with 3:18 to go. Odom's fastbreak layup kept the Lakers ahead 111-106, enough of a cushion to survive two missed free throws by Gasol.

Bryant hit a 21-footer from the left corner and Trevor Ariza followed with a three-pointer as the Lakers ended the game shooting 60 per cent from the floor.

"We are getting out there and starting great, and then they come back slowly but surely," said Andrew Bynum, who had a playoff career high of 10 points early for the Lakers. "We are going to have to change that."

Utah closed within six points seven times in the third quarter when the Lakers came unglued offensively. Bryant missed several shots, Gasol got called for offensive basket interference and Derek Fisher committed three turnovers.

Each time the Jazz threatened, though, the Lakers came up with a basket. In the final 2:27, Bryant scored six consecutive points and assisted on Shannon Brown's 3-pointer to send the Lakers into the fourth leading 89-78.

"We were pretty confident, we had a little roll going," Williams said. "We just turned the ball over at the wrong time and it kind of led to a snowball effect. They made us pay."

The Jazz cut their deficit to 49-43 midway through the second quarter on an 18-footer by C.J. Miles.

But the Lakers answered with a 17-3 run to take their largest lead, 66-44, just as Bryant returned after starting the period on the bench. Brown hit a three-pointer after Luke Walton scored off an offensive rebound of Brown's previous missed trey, and Bryant scored five in a row before Ariza capped the run with a three-pointer.

"At times we played very physical and made them work a little harder for their shots, made them work a little harder with their offence," Boozer said. "but we've got to do it for 48 minutes."

Even the bounces went the Lakers' way. Odom's three-pointer spun around in the cylinder before dropping in, and a free throw by Bryant hit the top of the backboard and dropped straight in.

The Lakers weren't successful in stopping Williams' dribble penetration, allowing him to run off seven unanswered points that left the Jazz trailing 66-55 at halftime. Los Angeles shot 63 per cent in the half, and the Jazz hit a respectable 60 per cent.

The Lakers shot a sizzling 86 per cent in the opening quarter and took a 41-29 lead. As he did in Game 1, Bryant got his teammates involved first while he settled for a lone three-pointer. He had seven of the Lakers' 14 assists in the first half.

Notes: Bryant was called for a technical foul with 24 seconds left. ... The Lakers lost Games 3 and 4 at Utah in last season's conference semifinals before winning the series 4-2. ... Los Angeles is 3-7 in its last 10 regular season games in Salt Lake City. ... Jack Nicholson celebrated his 72nd birthday, standing to acknowledge the cheering crowd. Also attending were Dustin Hoffman, Justin Timberlake (who enveloped girlfriend Jessica Biel in a long kiss and embrace when the arena's kiss cam landed on them), Andy Garcia, Dyan Cannon, George Lopez and PGA golfer Anthony Kim, Michelle Kwan, Golden State's Corey Maggette and Maria Shriver.

Pau Gasol (Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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