For a group that generally prefers hip hop music, the Lakers had heard enough Jazz over the last two weeks.
But after Monday night at STAPLES Center, the purple and gold finally buried the saxes and trumpets, holding on in the end after Utah’s subs took advantage of a drop in energy to go on a 13-0 fourth quarter run that cut a 20-point lead down to just six with 3:15 remaining.
Perhaps fittingly, it was Lamar Odom that finally put the nail in Utah’s stubborn coffin, leaking out in transition after back-to-back stops, catching a Derek Fisher bounce pass and throwing down a left-handed dunk to put the Lakers up 98-89 with 1:32 to play.
“With Lamar you can drop him anywhere and he’s going to be effective,” said Kobe Bryant of his teammate who replaced an ineffective Andrew Bynum in the starting lineup for games four and five. “He’s just a big key for us.”
Big key, indeed, as witnessed by his 26 points, 15 boards (five offensive), four assists and three blocks, building his series’ averages to 18 points and 11 boards. Meanwhile, Bryant followed up his 16-for-24, 38-point performance by hitting 10-of-21 shots and adding four steals and three assists, while Trevor Ariza fought through an ankle sprain suffered in Utah to contribute 12 points, seven boards, four assists and two blocks.
Those stats, and some help from a Pau Gasol double-double (17 and 11) added up to one thing: Round 2.
The Lakers earned what should be at least five, if not six days rest pending the conclusion of the Houston – Portland series (which Houston leads 3-1 but must take into Portland for Game 5), their reward for outlasting a gritty Jazz team that certainly wasn’t only the eighth best in the Western Conference.
“Well, we out did them,” said Phil Jackson. “I thought it was a disappointment to them but they played hard; they played together and you have to give them credit. I thank them for giving us a run and a good, hard series.”
Surely, the Lakers are thankful that they don’t have to go back to Salt Lake City for a Game
6. After all, they’d heard enough Jazz.
Assists for Deron Williams, half of what he’d been averaging coming into Game 5.
Kobe Bryant’s ranking on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. In the first round, Bryant passed both Hakeem Olajuwon and John Havlicek, and now has 3,786 postseason points.
Straight wins for the Lakers over the Jazz at STAPLES Center.
L.A.’s biggest lead, which came early in the fourth quarter.
Utah’s shooting percentage, including a 4-for-12 effort from Deron Williams, who finished with only 14 points. Paul Millsap was Utah’s most effective scoring option, as he made 6-of-11 shots for a team high 16 points.
Points put up by L.A.’s starters. Derek Fisher, with nine points, was the only starter not to hit double digits.