The Los Angeles Lakers completed their sweep of the Utah Jazz Monday night 111-96. The Lakers jumped out to a 22-point lead in the first half and never looked back, as they now look ahead to the Western Conference finals and the Phoenix Suns.
The Jazz did make a run, closing the lead down to five with under four minutes to play in the third quarter behind the sharp-shooting of C.J. miles and Carlos Boozer. The Jazz then fell victim to the turnover, and the Lakers ended the quarter on a 10-2 run and never looked back.
Pau Gasol set the tone for the Lakers with 33 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks. Gasol has been playing tougher since critics labeled him “soft” after the Lakers were beaten by the Celtics in the finals two years ago. His 17 first-half points helped the Lakers lead by as many as 22.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing,” Gasol said. “I think we’re doing a real good job collectively. That’s something that is really satisfying.”
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Kobe Bryant added 32 points in his seventh game 30 point game on the road with a chance to clinch a playoff series, an NBA record. Bryant also helped his team with four assists and shot 10-12 from the free throw line.
“With close-out games, you have a tendency to lose focus,” said Kobe Bryant. “We kept our concentration and paid attention to detail.”
The Jazz played tough throughout the game, but couldn’t avoid being swept for the first time in 21 years.
Deron Williams led the Jazz with 21 points, 14 rebounds, and nine assists. But a near triple double did little to ease the point guard’s disappointment.
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“We’re a playoff team and they’re a championship team. They’re just better than we are,” said Williams.
Carlos Boozer and C.J. Miles were two bright spots for the Jazz in the loss, scoring 10 and 15 points respectively. The duo showed why the Jazz have been a tough opponent for teams during the regular season.
“We’ll fight to the end,” said Miles. “That’s what we do.”
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was proud of his players, but admitted they didn’t play to their full potential. ”We knew they were a great team and I don’t think anybody had us picked to beat them,” Sloan said. “We had some good moments and some moments that weren’t very good.”
With their win Monday night, the Lakers have earned themselves a week off to study video on their rival Phoenix Suns. The Western Conference Finals begin next Monday. Online Sportsbooks have the Lakers as the favorite to come out of the Western Conference at 4/11, the Suns assume the underdog role at 3/2.