for this game

Boozer returns to form as Jazz down Lakers

May 10, 2008 - 5:41 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- As usual, all it took was a trip back home to get Carlos Boozer and the Utah Jazz back on track Friday.

After falling into a 2-0 hole in their Western Conference semifinals series against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Jazz returned home - where they posted a league-best mark during the regular season - and got one back with a 104-99 victory in Game Three.

Carlos Boozer turned in his best performance of the series with 27 points and 20 rebounds and Deron Williams added 18 and 12 assists as the Jazz took control in the second quarter and fended off a late rally by Los Angeles to cut their series deficit in half.

"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."

Over the first two games of the series, the Jazz fell behind early and had to play from behind for the length of the game. Even when they inevitably answered with a second-half run, it wasn't enough.

On Friday night in front of their home crowd, it was a different story.

After getting in major foul trouble and giving up a combined 239 points in the first two games, the Jazz's defense contained league MVP Kobe Bryant in the first half, and the suddenly hot shooting of Williams and Mehmet Okur staked Utah out to 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."

From then on, the Jazz kept the Lakers at a close but consistent distance.

While Bryant heated up in the third quarter after a 1-of-5 first-half showing, the Jazz always had an answer.

Even when it looked like Los Angeles had finally weathered the Utah storm and were poised to steal a road game, the Jazz - namely Boozer - were too much.

"We'll make some adjustments. I felt like their screen-and-roll play, particularly down the stretch, gave us a little bit of problems," Bryant said. "I think they made some adjustments looking at how we covered it the first two games. So, now it's on us to make adjustments."

After failing to establish any semblance of an offensive presence earlier in the series, Boozer was Utah's finisher in Game Three.

"I just tried to stop thinking so much out there. 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," Boozer said. "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."

Once Los Angeles cut to the deficit to three - the closest it had been since the first period - with more than three minutes to play, Boozer went strong to the hoop on the other end and buried a baby hook to put the lead back at five.

And he was just getting started. The three-time All-Star forward knocked down mid-range jumpers on the next two possessions to give Utah a nine-point edge.

"You could just sense that he wanted the ball," Williams said. "He'd been hitting his shots all night, so we just kept feeding him. They couldn't find an answer for the play we were running."

Still, the Lakers weren't quite done.

Luke Walton sank a 3-pointer, Pau Gasol hit a hook shot and Bryant hit a pair of foul shots to get back to within four. But despite the Jazz missing 3-of-4 free throws in the last 15 seconds of the game, the Lakers' last-gasp rally wasn't enough.

"We had a lot of open looks. They just didn't go for us," Bryant said. "(But) you can sustain a night like that when shots don't fall, particularly from (long) range, 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."

Okur scored 22 for the Jazz, who were 37-4 at home during the regular campaign and improved to 3-1 here this postseason. They will host Game Four on Sunday.

Bryant led all scorers with 34 points for the Lakers and dished out seven assists.