Utah Jazz swinging as Lakers lose first playoff
Issued on: Modified:
The Los Angeles Lakers lost their first playoff of the season away to the Utah Jazz. The home side were boosted by an unstoppable Carlos Boozer, who scored 27 points with 20 rebounds.
Carlos Boozer scored 27 points with 20 rebounds Friday as the Utah Jazz defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 104-99 to climb back into their National Basketball Association playoff series.
The Jazz rebounded from two defeats in Los Angeles, narrowing the gap in the best-of-seven Western Conference second-round series to 2-1.
Boozer delivered his best performance of the series, and Deron Williams added 18 points and 12 assists as the Jazz took control in the second quarter and held off a late charge by the Lakers.
"It just gives us a lot of confidence," Williams said. "We got that first win. Now we know we can beat this team. We've felt all along we could beat this team, but now we know."
In each of the first two games, the Jazz had fallen behind early and been unable to get out of the hole.
On Friday, in front of the famously loyal and loud Utah fans, things were different.
The Jazz contained league Most Valuable Player Kobe Bryant in the first half, and the hot shooting of Williams and Mehmet Okur let Utah build a double-digit lead.
"They got after us today, early in that first quarter after (Derek Fisher) got his second foul, and we had to make an adjustment," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I think they went on a 15-3 run and kind of maintained the energy in that first half."
The Lakers got closer, particularly after Bryant heated up after 1-of-5 shooting in the first half, but they could never completely close the gap.
"We turned the ball over quite a bit," said Bryant, who led all scorers with 34 points.
"We had a lot of open looks, a lot of open looks, they just didn't go for us," he added. "You can sustain a night like that when shots don't fall if you don't turn the ball over. We've really got to keep our turnovers down and not allow them to get out in transition and get easy points."
Even when it looked like the Lakers had put themselves in position to steal a road game, the Jazz were too much.
Boozer, who failed to establish any offensive presence for Utah in the first two games, was Utah's finisher here.
With three-plus minutes to play, the Lakers cut to the deficit to three, the narrowest margin since the first quarter.
But Boozer went strong to the basket on the other end and buried a baby hook to put the lead back at five.
The three-time All-Star forward knocked down mid-range jumpers on the next two possessions to give Utah a nine-point advantage.
"I just tried to stop thinking so much out there," Boozer said. "I think we've all been waiting for such a big game out of me, and I've been waiting for it, too, and putting a little too much pressure on myself.
"I feel like I have a big responsibility for my team and, if I don't play well sometimes, it's like I let them down."
The Lakers hung in, as Luke Walton sank a three-pointer, Pau Gasol hit a hook shot and Bryant hit a pair of foul shots to get back to within four.
But even though the Jazz missed three of four free throw attempts in the final 15 seconds of the game, the Lakers didn't have enough.
Okur scored 22 for the Jazz, who were a league-leading 37-4 at home during the regular season. They will host game four on Sunday.
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe