Bryant, Lakers close out Jazz with 107-96 winApr 28, 2009 - 7:56 AM By BERNIE WILSON AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES(AP) -- The Los Angeles Lakers can put on quite a show offensively, with 3-pointers, slam dunks and even Kobe Bryant sinking a fadeaway jumper as he fell on his backside.
Its their defense that's going to need work if they plan on going deep in the NBA playoffs.
Bryant and the Lakers are moving on - as if that was really in doubt - but even as they ran away from the Jazz 107-96 on Monday night, they still left questions about their overall play.
With Bryant scoring 31 points and Lamar Odom adding 26 points and 15 rebounds, the Lakers finished the opening-round series in five games to earn a few days rest.
They move on to play the winner of the Portland-Houston series.
The partying fans at Staples Arena - and the Lakers - were slapped back to reality as the Jazz cut a 22-point deficit at the end of the third quarter to 93-86 with 4:37 left. Bryant hit a turnaround jumper and Odom finished a fast break with a slam dunk to fend off Utah's late run.
"We've got to give a better effort defensively when our second unit comes in there, getting back on defense, not giving up easy baskets, stuff like that," Bryant said. "We've got a week here before the next series to have a spirited conversation with the group and see if we can't correct that for the next series."
Bryant doesn't care who the Lakers play next.
"I'm just ready for the next series, whoever it is," he said. "We have to kind of go over it and evaluate it and see what areas we can exploit offensively and defensively. It's different than playing in the regular season."
Bryant had a welt under his right eye. The Lakers acknowledged that Utah was a tough opponent despite being the No. 8 seed.
It was a disappointing end for a Jazz team that had high expectations.
"Injuries kind of affected us and we really weren't able to ever get into a rhythm," point guard Deron Williams said. "We kind of headed downhill toward the playoffs and we just really didn't get the type of effort we needed to win a series."
If there was any question that this was going to be the Lakers' night on their home court, Bryant answered that in the closing seconds of the first half.
He drove the lane and passed to Pau Gasol. The ball was batted loose and Bryant grabbed it, turned and sank a fadeaway jumper as he fell on his rear end, giving the Lakers a 56-43 halftime lead.
By late in the third quarter, the Lakers were toying with the Jazz. Bryant made a layup, hit a 3-pointer and fed Gasol for a slam dunk. Odom added a bucket and just like that it was 80-58.
Paul Millsap led Utah with 16 points while Andrei Kirilenko and Williams had 14 apiece.
Gasol had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Ariza 12 points for the Lakers.
Nuggets 121, Hornets 63=
At New Orleans, Carmelo Anthony scored all of his 26 points in the first three quarters, and Denver took a commanding 3-1 lead in its first-round series.
Denver led 89-50 after three quarters on its way to matching the most lopsided victory in NBA playoff history. The Minneapolis Lakers beat the St. Louis Hawks 133-75 in 1956.
The Nuggets stifled Hornets All-Star Chris Paul, whose four points and six assists amounted to one of the worst games of his career.
The Nuggets can close out the series at home in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
Hawks 81, Heat 71=
At Miami, Zaza Pachulia had 12 points and 18 rebounds, and Atlanta raced to a huge first-half lead in tying the first-round series at two games apiece.
Mike Bibby scored 15 points, Joe Johnson added 14 and Josh Smith 13 for the Hawks.
Dwyane Wade scored 22 points on 9-for-26 shooting and wincing at times from a back injury.
It was Atlanta's first road postseason win in nearly 12 years, a stretch spanning 13 games.
The series returns to Atlanta on Wednesday for Game 5.
LA LAKERS 107 FINAL
Apr 28 1:39 AM
LA LAKERS 82 END, 3RD QTR
Apr 28 12:57 AM
LA LAKERS 56 HALFTIME
Apr 27 11:58 PM
LA LAKERS 26 END, 1ST QTR
Apr 27 11:13 PM
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