Lakers beat Jazz 123-109

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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Phil Jackson pulled even with Red Auerbach in regular-season victories, 5 1/2 seasons after tying the Boston Celtics coach for the most NBA championships won.

Kobe Bryant had 31 points and seven assists before sitting out the fourth quarter and the Lakers beat the Utah Jazz 123-109 Friday night, giving Jackson his 938th career win and a share of seventh place on the career list.

"The longer you stay here, the more wins you're going to accumulate," Jackson said modestly. "But I've never really followed that stuff, you know? I think the night that made the most sense to me, in terms of numbers of wins, was when I got my 500th and Bill Fitch was coaching on the other side. He was my college coach, and he came over and shook my hand after the game."

As fate would have it, Jackson will get a chance to pass Auerbach when the Lakers host the Celtics on Sunday night in the 177th regular-season meeting of the NBA's greatest rivalry. They've faced each other 10 times in the finals, with Boston winning the first eight and the Lakers prevailing in 1985 and 1987.

Jackson, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sept. 7, has won nine league titles as a coach. Three of them came with the Lakers and the other six with the Chicago Bulls -- who won 72 games with Jackson at the helm in 1995-96.

"Fortunately, I've had really good teams and they've accumulated a lot more wins in a short period of time. But still and all, it's really just longevity and it speaks for hanging in there," Jackson said.

Auerbach's final season as an NBA coach coincided with Utah coach Jerry Sloan's rookie season as an NBA player with the Baltimore Bullets. But he found it difficult to compare Auerbach and Jackson.

"They didn't have the same people. If they coached all the same guys, maybe you could compare them. But they've both been blessed with great players, and that gives you a chance every night," said Sloan, whose 1,051 victories are fourth on the career list. "Phil's always done a great job coaching his teams. It's one thing to have great players, but it's another to be able to coach them and win with them."

Lakers special assistant coach Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's career scoring leader, agreed with Sloan.

"Their eras are so different, it's difficult to make a comparison," Abdul-Jabbar said. "Phil coached in an entirely different era, and I really don't think it translates. It's kind of like comparing somebody like Joe Torre to Connie Mack.

"Phil always seems to get good mileage out of good players," he added. "It involves a lot of patience, and you've got to be lucky enough to find players with the right chemistry. I think a lot of coaches who could have that kind of talent might not have done as well. You'll never know, but I think that has a lot to do with it."

Carlos Boozer led Utah with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Reserve guard Gordan Giricek, banished to the locker room by Sloan during a timeout in the second quarter of Utah's 98-92 loss at Charlotte on Dec. 19, rejoined his teammates after spending the last three games back in Salt Lake City. He spent the entire game on the bench.

Asked if Giricek's three-game absence could be classified as a suspension, Sloan said: "I guess you could call it that, but there was no fine involved. We just had a little verbal exchange that got a little bit too far out of hand. It's not a big deal, really. We're going to go about our business and see what happens. He's here and I'm here, and that's the way life is."

The Lakers enjoyed their highest-scoring first half of the season, taking a 75-48 lead with 21 points from Bryant and 13 by Lamar Odom. Andrew Bynum scored eight points in the first 6:20 -- including a pair of alley-oop dunks set up by Bryant and Derek Fisher -- but went to the bench less than a minute later after picking up his second foul.

Kwame Brown, sidelined the previous 19 games because of ankle and knee sprains, played for the first time since Nov. 18 and was the first player off the Lakers' bench. He replaced Bynum with 5:28 left in the opening quarter, and Los Angeles outscored Utah 19-7 over the next 4 minutes to pull ahead 37-21.

From then on, it was no contest. The Lakers took their biggest lead, 91-57, on a layup by Trevor Ariza with 6:57 left in the third quarter and coasted to their fourth straight victory. They shot 54.4 percent from the field, raising their record to 9-0 when shooting at least 50 percent.

"They beat us about every way you can," Sloan said. "They came out and destroyed us that first half. They were so good defensively, we couldn't get anything. We started to think we could beat them one-on-one, and we just didn't have much of a chance to do that, either."

Notes:@ Bryant, the two-time defending NBA scoring champ, has scored 30 or more points in three consecutive games for the first time this season after getting 39 at New York and 38 against Phoenix. ... Ariza finished with 12 points as all of the Lakers' starters scored in double figures. Brown had seven points and five rebounds in 17 minutes.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-12-28-07 2353MST

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