The Lakers nearly lost a 19 point lead in the second half, but were able to stop the Jazz when it mattered most en route to a 109-98 victory in Game 1 of the teams’ best of seven Western Conference Semifinals series. Kobe Bryant led the way for the Lakers with 38 points on 8-16 from the field, including 21-23 from the foul line.
Pau Gasol (18 points) and Lamar Odom (16 points, 9 rebounds) both had strong games for the Lakers, with the Spaniard pulling down a team-high 10 rebounds. As a team, L.A shot 45% from the field, but held the Jazz to just 38%, including a sub par 4-19 from behind the three point line. Derek Fisher had a stellar defensive game, stealing the ball six times.
“We just played hard for 48 minutes,” said Turiaf. “We stayed focused even though they had those runs, we weathered the storms and I think we did a good job staying together. Not getting mad at each other and I think when you pass the ball, share the ball you put yourself in the situations.”
“It’s extremely important because they’re easy baskets,” said Bryant on making a game-high 21 free throws. “You have to be able to knock those free throws down and step up there, they’re open looks. You go up there and miss two free throws, and sometimes that can change the momentum, it’s as good as a turnover. So you have to take the responsibility to go up there and knock them down.”
The Lakers won despite being outrebounded by a 58-41 margin. Okur had 19 rebounds to lead the Jazz, seconded by 14 from Boozer.
“You know, we’re just being very consistent,” said Bryant, poking fun at the disparity. “We got our butts kicked on the boards against Denver too, so we probably don’t want to change that too much.”
Sasha Vujacic also had a great performance off the bench for the Lakers, scoring 15 points and igniting the team during the second quarter.
“He played extremely well,” said Bryant, praising his team’s overall effort. “I think what our guys do is they stay within themselves and use the offense to get opportunities, and they know where those opportunities are coming from, and when an opportunity presents itself they’re ready to knock it down.”