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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Familiarity is little help to the Utah Jazz against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Jazz and Lakers are meeting for the third straight year in the Western Conference playoffs. And just like the previous two, the Lakers lead 2-0 as the series comes to Utah for two games that the Jazz know are crucial to any aspirations they have of knocking out the defending NBA champions.
"We're down 0-2. We never want to be in that position," Utah point guard Deron Williams said Friday. "We're ready to get back out there and play."
Both teams have had a few days to recover after the Lakers' 111-103 win on Tuesday. Game 3 is Saturday night in Salt Lake City, where the Jazz seem to hold a home-court advantage against every team other than the Lakers. Los Angeles hasn't gone winless in Utah since the 2004-05 season and added a playoff win here each of the last two years.
Of the few promising signs for the Jazz, one is they played better in Los Angeles in the first two games than they had in the last two playoff series. The Lakers opened the 2008 second-round series with two double-digit victories and did it again last year against Utah in the first round.
The Jazz actually held a lead late in the fourth quarter of Game 1 on Sunday before Kobe Bryant rallied the Lakers to the win. Utah forced 20 turnovers in Game 2 and got within four points in the final minutes despite playing without center Mehmet Okur (ruptured Achilles' tendon) and forward Andrei Kirilenko (strained calf). For Utah on the road against the Lakers, that's progress.
"We're typically a different team at home. We had a chance to win those games in LA. We let opportunities slip away," said Williams, named all-NBA second team on Thursday. "Now we're back at home, looking to get these two games."
Game 4 is Monday in Utah. Of the three possible scenarios the Jazz could face next week, only one would be good for Utah -- win both games in Salt Lake City and even the series. If it's a split, the Jazz will be facing elimination Wednesday in Los Angeles, where they have lost 16 straight counting regular season and playoff games. And if the Lakers win both, Utah's season is over.
"We understand how hard they're going to play in (Game 3), because they know if we win it, we can basically put away the series," Lakers center Pau Gasol said.
Kirilenko said he has recovered from the left calf strain that has kept him out since March 26 and will play Saturday. That gives the Jazz at least a little help inside, where Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom towered over Utah in the first two games.
The Lakers have pulled down 101 rebounds and blocked 20 shots already in the series. Los Angeles has forced Utah outside and the Jazz's shooting sputtered at just 42 percent in the first two games.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan was asked before practice Friday how he planned to counter the Lakers' size advantage and Sloan was still considering his options.
"We could step on their toes. Maybe that would help," Sloan said with a grin and chuckle. "Against this team you don't always get inside. I don't care who we've got to put inside, they're still longer than we are and it makes it a situation where you're playing right into their hands most of the time. We have to make some shots out on the floor."
The Lakers practiced in Los Angeles on Friday before heading to Utah. While Game 3 is much more critical for the Jazz, the Lakers would like to avoid a repeat of the first round, when they led Oklahoma City 2-0 before the Thunder tied it with two wins at home. The Lakers went on to win in six games, but it was a longer series than it had to be.
Los Angeles is already halfway to clinching a third straight trip to the Western Conference finals and doesn't want to risk letting the Jazz back in the series.
Utah's offense hasn't changed for decades, but when the Jazz are running it well and sharing the ball as they did in a 4-2 win over Denver in the opening round, it's difficult to stop even when you know exactly what's coming.
"Defensively, we pretty much know this team. I'm not saying they can't throw us a curveball, but we know each other," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "This has been one of the best home-court teams in the NBA for years."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)