Bryant pours in 34 as Lakers grab 2-0 series leadMay 8, 2008 - 7:47 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) - Try as they might, the Utah Jazz could not spoil Kobe Bryant's party.
With the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award under his belt, Bryant scored 34 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 120-110 victory over the Jazz in Game Two of their Western Conference semifinals series on Wednesday.
With the win, Los Angeles created a 2-0 lead in the series and also remained undefeated in the postseason, heading into Game Three in Salt Lake City on Friday.
"We expected it, especially because our man got the MVP, we expected that," Lakers forward Lamar Odom said of the win.
The Jazz had been in a similar situation last year, dropping the first two games of their first-round matchup with the Houston Rockets before battling back to capture the series in seven games.
"We've been through it," Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer said. "We've been down. We just got to find a way to win. We got to take care of business (at home) and then win on the road."
Prior to tip-off, NBA Commissioner David Stern presented Bryant with his first career MVP trophy. Bryant briefly addressed the capacity crowd to a roaring ovation before being mobbed in a congratulatory fashion by his teammates.
"I try not to get too emotional or wrapped up in it because we have a game to play, but it was tough," Bryant said. "Just seeing all the fans and all my teammates coming up, this was something. It was something to see all that appreciation."
Bryant responded with another signature performance, collecting eight rebounds and six assists to help the Lakers' offense spread the floor.
From the onset, the Lakers immediately fed off the increased energy from their supporters, establishing themselves as the aggressors en route to an early 15-point lead.
"The energy of the crowd and Kobe's night gave us a real quick start," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Derek Fisher scored 22 points and Odom contributed 19 and 16 rebounds for Los Angeles, which shot a blistering 57 percent (39-of-68) from the field.
Fisher, who played for last year's Jazz squad which advanced all the way to the conference finals, nailed a key 3-pointer from the top of the key to push the Lakers' advantage to 104-94 with 4:55 remaining after Utah had crawled to as close as six points minutes earlier.
"Again, we got down in the first half and really dug ourselves a hole against a good team, and you just can't do that," Jazz guard Deron Williams said. "We're sitting there fighting back, using a lot of energy, and you just don't have enough to get over the hump."
After a three-point play by the Jazz, Bryant sliced through the lane and found Pau Gasol underneath for a dunk that resulted in a 10-point lead with 2:40 left. Bryant iced the game with a pair of free throws to keep the margin at double figures with just under a minute left.
After being outrebounded by 17 in the series opener, the Lakers improved markedly on the glass. The Jazz won the rebounding battle by just a 41-37 margin.
Heading back to Utah, the Lakers confidence seems to be riding high.
"We believe in ourselves," Bryant said. "We have a high basketball IQ collectively. That's why I believe we can play into June because we all think the game extremely well and we play as a unit on both ends of the floor."
Williams had 25 points and 10 assists and Paul Millsap scored 17 off the bench for Utah, which had seven players score in double figures.
LA LAKERS 120 FINAL
May 8 1:22 AM
LA LAKERS 93 END, 3RD QTR
May 8 12:39 AM
LA LAKERS 63 HALFTIME
May 7 11:50 PM
LA LAKERS 33 END, 1ST QTR
May 7 11:16 PM
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