Gasol's late baskets help Lakers top JazzMay 15, 2008 - 7:11 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Pau Gasol and the Los Angeles Lakers again proved they can win at home. Now, they must do it on the road.
Gasol made two clutch baskets down the stretch as the Lakers survived with a 111-104 victory and 3-2 series lead over the Utah Jazz in Game Five of their Western Conference semifinals matchup Wednesday.
"Obviously, the game was on the line and we had to bring out everything we had left," Gasol said. "It was a tough game, it was very physical. They played very aggressively, and we had to fight for every ball and every possession."
Kobe Bryant had 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Lakers, who can secure a trip to the conference finals with a win in Game Six on Friday in Utah.
But it won't come easy as the Jazz were an NBA best 37-4 at home during the regular season.
Utah was in a similar situation a season ago. The Houston Rockets had it on the brink of elimination with a 3-2 lead in their first-round series, before they bounced back to capture the remaining two games and advance.
"We just got to protect home court, go back and get our confidence back, hopefully, win that one and be out here for Game Seven," Jazz guard Deron Williams said.
Gasol came through with the game's two biggest baskets in the last minute. His scoop shot gave the Lakers a 105-102 lead before his offensive rebound of Sasha Vujacic's missed 3-pointer and subsequent jam with 20 seconds remaining put Los Angeles ahead by five.
The Lakers' big man recorded 21 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and frequently found the open man for easy looks.
"Gasol really opened the game up with his passing tonight," Lakers forward Lamar Odom said. "That's why he's so valuable to this team and so valuable to our execution."
With the Lakers holding a narrow one-point lead early in the fourth, they were able to get some separation on Odom's three-point play with 6:19 left that made it 97-91.
The Jazz, who never led, would storm back to within one point on a 3-pointer by Williams as the shot clock expired with 2:18 remaining.
On the next possession, Bryant spun through the lane and found Odom open for an uncontested dunk. Mehmet Okur came back with a layup to get the Jazz again within one, before Gasol finished them off.
"It's about making the right plays for us to score and get stops when it comes down to the last two minutes," Gasol said.
Bryant, who injured his back early in Sunday's contest and was bothered throughout, looked like some of the effects still lingered in this one. He attempted just 10 shots, but happily played the role of distributor for Gasol and Odom, who finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
"I knew I wasn't 100 percent healthy, so I wanted to get us off to a good start, give us an emotional burst," Bryant said. "In the third quarter, I had a moment where I was able to pick it up a little bit. In the fourth quarter, Lamar and Pau took it from there."
The Lakers were able to overcome a pestering Jazz squad, which was led by Williams, who collected 27 points and 10 assists. Thanks to the star point guard, Utah stayed close throughout but could not get over the hump.
"We battled to the end," Williams said. "It's promising, we feel like we can win here."
After trailing by as many as 12 in the first half, they roared back to tie the score early in the third en route to an 81-81 tie heading into the fourth.
LA LAKERS 111 FINAL
May 15 1:30 AM
LA LAKERS 81 END, 3RD QTR
May 15 12:45 AM
LA LAKERS 61 HALFTIME
May 14 11:53 PM
LA LAKERS 29 END, 1ST QTR
May 14 11:18 PM
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