Williams, Jazz survive in OT, even seriesMay 12, 2008 - 12:44 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- Deron Williams and the Utah Jazz can run with the Los Angeles Lakers - and their MVP - after all. This time, it just took them an extra period to do it.
Williams had 29 points and 14 assists, including the biggest one of the night, as the Jazz withstood a furious Lakers' rally to even up their Western Conference semifinals series with a 123-115 overtime victory in Game Four.
With 36 seconds left in the overtime period and Utah nursing a two-point edge, Williams found Andrei Kirilenko underneath the basket for a turnaround dunk. The 6-9 forward drew the foul and completed a three-point play to give the Jazz a five-point lead.
"We ran the same play a couple times - I think three or four times in a row," Williams said. "They came out and helped on me a little bit, and I saw (Kirilenko) going back door, so I just dumped it off to him and he did a great job of going up strong and finishing with a dunk."
Kobe Bryant misfired on a wild drive to the hoop on Los Angeles' next possession, and Carlos Boozer grabbed the board and quickly got the ball to Utah's best foul shooter, Kyle Korver, who buried both attempts to help seal the victory.
The Jazz went 8-of-8 from the line in the final 30 seconds to preserve the victory and secure one more home game this series.
After falling behind early and failing to catch up in their two losses at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Jazz turned the tables in Salt Lake City.
"We're definitely confident now," Williams said. "Our first two games didn't go exactly how we wanted them to go. We made some adjustments in these past two games and we feel like we are playing better basketball. We're more equipped to go over there and get a win."
With Williams taking the reigns as the offensive aggressor - scoring 19 first-half points on 7-of-9 shooting - the Jazz took the lead two minutes into the game and never gave it up.
That's not to say the Lakers didn't have the opportunities to take it away from them. But like Game Three on Friday night, Utah didn't self-destruct and had just enough to hold off the top-seeded Lakers.
"They continued to hit shots in the fourth quarter. We were a little tentative and they tied the game, but we felt that, going into overtime, we still had the energy to compete and to bring it," Williams said. "That's what we did. We made stops when we had to, we made free throws and made shots. That's a big win for us."
Derek Fisher, who was neutralized in the first half due to foul trouble, came back to bite his former team in the fourth quarter, draining three 3-pointers to pull the Lakers to within four after Utah had opened up a 12-point advantage.
"You've got to give it up to D-Fish," Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer said. "He's got a lot of heart, knocking down big shot after big shot. He kept on competing and kept his team in the game."
Two minutes later, newly minted league MVP Bryant drove to the basket and completed a three-point play to bring his team to within one.
With Boozer and Mehmet Okur both struggling from the field, Williams took it upon himself to answer, burying a 16-footer to put Utah up by three.
But the Lakers had an answer for that as well. This time it was Lamar Odom connecting from downtown to tie the game as the Utah crowd, which remained on its feet for the length of the second half, looked on in stunned disbelief.
After a pair of free throws by Boozer put the Jazz back up by two, the Lakers saved themselves with a pair of offensive boards and finally pulled even once again with five seconds remaining, as Odom followed Bryant's miss with the tying layup.
Bryant led all scorers with 33 points but tweaked his back on the second possession of the game, suffering back spasms that he said limited his movement throughout.
"You've got to make some adjustments," Bryant said of his injury. "You can't run like you want to, cut like you want to."
Still, he had a big second quarter to pull the Lakers even at 55-55 and was a major key in the Lakers' fourth-quarter comeback. However, he was just 1-of-7 in the overtime period.
"No excuses for me," Bryant said. "AK did a great job, (he's a) great defensive player. They just did a terrific job. They made the plays when they needed to."
The Jazz had the Lakers on their heels early.
For the second straight game, Fisher was taken out of the equation quickly. The Lakers veteran point guard picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game, just as he had in Game Three. And Williams made the Lakers pay right away.
On reserve guard Jordan Farmar's first possession, Williams drove the baseline for an easy layup, then muscled his way past Farmar through the middle a minute later for another bucket.
Kirilenko stuffed Bryant in the paint on the other end, and Brewer found a streaking Williams for a dunk, capping an 8-0 run that gave Utah a 14-6 cushion.
"I thought we started out great pushing the ball and getting out in transition to build a little lead. That's what got us going," Williams said. "When I see guys struggling offensively, that's when I try to get everyone involved. If we are struggling a little to score, I try to assert myself."
The Lakers' bench got even more shorthanded a few minutes later.
Reserve forward Ronny Turiaf, one of coach Phil Jackson's top energy guys and a valuable rebounder and inside presence, was ejected two minutes into the second period after knocking Jazz guard Ronnie Price hard to the floor.
"It's the playoffs, that's all I can say. It happens," Price said. "It just so happens that me and Ronny are good friends. We came up the same year. He probably didn't mean to foul me like that, but your emotions run and things happen."
Price was cutting to the basket, when a foul was called on Sasha Vujacic. After the whistle, Turiaf hammered Price, who suffered a cut above his right eye which required four stitches.
"I thought the kid (Price) was out of control and he went in," Jackson said. "Ronny did go up to block the shot, but I think he entirely played the ball. I haven't seen a call like that. ... I was very surprised he was put out of the ballgame."
The play looked like a near-repeat of a Game Three incident, when Turiaf knocked Williams to the floor. The third-year point guard was on the floor for a few minutes before getting up with a sprained right wrist.
But while key members of the Lakers' second team were out of commission, the Jazz's reserves were pulling their weight. Korver hit a couple of key second-half 3-pointers, Matt Harpring scored 12 points and Paul Millsap was the team's toughest inside force in the fourth quarter.
"I was really impressed, and the thing that kind of seemed to give us a little bit of life was our second group gave us a lift," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.
"A lot of guys stepped in," Brewer said. "There wasn't really a drop-off from the starting five to our bench crew."
Even Price, who plays sparingly behind Williams, had a pivotal three-point play to put the Jazz up nine, then later delivered a stunning block on Luke Walton's fast-break layup attempt before exiting to a lengthy ovation.
Kirilenko had 15 points and five blocks and Okur added 18 and 11 rebounds for Utah, which will hit the road for Game Five on Wednesday night. Bryant, for his part, said he should be ready to go.
LA LAKERS 115
UTAH 123 FINAL IN 1ST OT
May 11 6:32 PM
LA LAKERS 108
UTAH 108 END OF 4TH QTR GOING INTO OVERTIME
May 11 6:12 PM
LA LAKERS 75
UTAH 79 END, 3RD QTR
May 11 5:28 PM
LA LAKERS 55
UTAH 55 HALFTIME
May 11 4:44 PM
LA LAKERS 21
UTAH 31 END, 1ST QTR
May 11 4:01 PM
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