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Lakers fend off Jazz to advance to Western semifinals

The Sports Network

4/28/2009 2:25:39 AM

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Kobe Bryant scored 31 points and the Los Angeles Lakers weathered a late Utah run to beat the Jazz, 107-96, to wrap up their Western Conference quarterfinal series in five games.

Lamar Odom added 26 points and 15 rebounds, while Pau Gasol notched 17 points and 11 boards for the top-seeded Lakers, who will play either Portland or Houston in the next round. The fifth-seeded Rockets hold a 3-1 lead in that opening-round set and can wrap up their first playoff series win since 1997 by capturing Game 5 Tuesday night.

Including the playoffs and regular season, the Lakers have beaten the Jazz 12 straight times at the Staples Center. The Lakers have also won 13 of their last 14 home playoff games, but this time nearly blew a 22-point lead.

"We have to have a better effort and not give up easy baskets," said Bryant. "I feel we've improved from last year's playoffs. I'm ready for the next series, whoever it is."

Paul Millsap led a fourth-quarter charge and finished with 16 points for the Jazz, while Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko each added 14 in defeat.

"The Lakers did a good job defensively, they took it to us in the second half," said Jazz forward Carlos Boozer. "Our guys that were our there, they played their butts off, unfortunately our season has come to an end. I'd like to come back, but I'll talk to may agent and family, and go from there."

The Lakers went to the fourth quarter holding an 82-63 lead and were up 93-73 following a pair of free throws from Andrew Bynum with 8 1/2 minutes remaining.

That's when Millsap took matters into his own hands, recording a personal 11-0 spurt. Ronnie Brewer's follow dunk capped the run of 13 straight points.

Bryant interjected with a double-clutch jumper, but Kyle Korver drilled a three-pointer from the corner for a 95-89 difference with under four minutes left.

Utah, which was very tough in the final quarter, as evidenced by 15 rebounds and no turnovers, but the Jazz didn't get the foul calls. That upset coach Jerry Sloan, who was ultimately ejected with 1:09 remaining.

Sloan decided to play three reserves the entire final quarter, Millsap, Korver and Ronnie Price, as they combined for 29 of the team's 33 points. It still wasn't enough, though.

Trevor Ariza missed a three-pointer for the Lakers, but Utah couldn't capitalize at the other end as Okur missed a jumper and Price then was off the mark on a follow layup.

Ariza sank 1-of-2 foul shots with 2:04 left for a 96-89 cushion, and the whistles were silent from the officials when Utah attacked the basket the next time down the floor as Okur missed a jumper, and Price couldn't connect on a layup.

Odom jammed at the other end on the fast break to essentially seal the win at 98-89 with 1:32 left. Fisher tacked on a technical foul shot on Sloan's ejection.

After the game, Bryant was left with a pair of welts on his face, as he reflected on the Lakers beating Utah in the playoffs for a second straight year. In 2008 they beat the Jazz in six games in the West semis.

"No stitches, in the heat of battle, got marked up a little bit," said Bryant. "I think it was Brewer or Millsap, one of those two guys in the post."

The first quarter was tight throughout with the teams even at 26 after 12 minutes, but the Lakers opened the second on a 14-3 spurt, capped by a Sasha Vujacic three-pointer. LA was on top 56-43 at the half, thanks mostly to a 28-15 rebounding advantage.

The Lakers continued to pull away in the third, expanding the lead to as many as 22. Odom's tip shot made it 80-58 with over two minutes left.

"We were concerned about blowing our 22-point lead, but we were able to finish well," said Gasol. "It's very satisfying to beat Utah in five games. We're ready for our next opponent."

Game Notes: The Lakers have closed out their opponent on the first attempt 15 times in their last 17 opportunities dating back to 2001...Currently in his 18th postseason as a head coach, the Lakers' Phil Jackson is 48-1 in playoff series when holding a series lead of any kind...This marked the final game for Jazz broadcaster "Hot" Rod Hundley, who announced his retirement last week. Hundley has been broadcasting Jazz games since 1974, when they were an expansion team playing in New Orleans...The Lakers are 26-4 in their last 30 home playoff games...This was Jackson's 282nd playoff game coaching the Lakers, tying an NBA record...Ariza had 12 points...Boozer had 10 points and nine boards for Utah, which also got 11 points from Korver and 10 from Brewer.