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Lakers look to improve rebounding against Jazz

Lakers look to improve rebounding against Jazz

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

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By JOHN NADEL AP Sports Writer

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -- Pau Gasol had a simple explanation for Utah's staggering 58-41 rebounding advantage over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

"We were a little slow reacting to the ball," the Lakers' center said Monday.

Kobe Bryant's reaction?

"It was either that or the two hands in the back," he said.

Despite the disparity, the Lakers beat the Jazz 109-98 Sunday to begin the best-of-seven series, thanks mainly to a 16-point advantage at the free throw line and Utah's 37.9 percent field goal percentage.

The Lakers realize there's no guarantee they'll shoot as many foul shots or the Jazz will misfire so often Wednesday night in Game 2.

"I think we'll do a better job (reacting to the ball) next game," Gasol said. "The way their offense is set up, they always have two or three guys in the paint. We didn't have our best game. At the same time, we're satisfied by the win."

The Lakers led by as many as 19 points in the third quarter before the Jazz rallied to get within four with nearly five minutes left. But they would get no closer, and the Lakers made eight free throws without a miss in the final 44 seconds to win going away. They finished with 38 free throws in 46 attempts, while Utah went 20-of-32 at the line.

While Bryant made it clear he wasn't being critical of the Jazz, calling them a typical Jerry Sloan-coached team, he did say he expects the series to get more physical.

"I'm sure it will, it's playoff basketball," he said. "Utah plays physical anyway. Those guys, they play hard. They're not talking, they just play hard. We've just got to do a better job getting to their bodies."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said much the same thing.

"They play a very physical game, let the referees make a decision on what's a foul and what isn't," he said. "They scrum, they get in the lane, they're after the ball, they're pushing and shoving.

"It's not our style. We are going to play the kind of game we have to play. Just be more resilient, that's all."

Jackson also said he didn't believe Bryant will have the opportunity to go 21-of-23 from the foul line again, as he did in the opener.

"But they'll throw a lot of bodies at him, make the referees make a decision, contest his shots," Jackson said.

Utah's Carlos Boozer made it sound as if the Jazz intend to rely more on their strength.

"I think we can do a good job of getting the ball inside a little bit more," he said in Salt Lake City. "I think we settled for jump shots at times. We're stronger than them. They're longer than we are, but we have some guys that like to get in there and bang around a little big and move some bodies and try to get the ball, which is going to be the key for us in this series. We need to continue to go inside and make them work inside."

While the Lakers entered Game 1 having had five full days off, the Jazz had a quick turnaround, completing their first-round series Friday night, practicing and traveling to Los Angeles on Saturday, and playing on Sunday.

"Now things are squared up, they've gotten a couple days rest before the next game," Jackson said.

The Lakers are the only unbeaten team in the postseason, having swept Denver before getting the jump on Utah.

"Every game is Game 7. That's been our approach," Bryant said. "I think with each win, we get more confident. Utah is a much bigger challenge for us than the first round. I think Game 3 in Denver, we played well. Other than that, we've been playing in spurts. We haven't put together a complete game. I think that's good news."

Utah's Deron Williams, who shot 5-of-18 in the opener, said there was no reason for the Jazz to panic.

"It's a seven-game series," he said. "We've lost one game. We've just got to stay poised and try to get this next one. We want to try to get back to where we were. We don't want to go back to Salt Lake down 0-2. We've been in that situation before and it's not pretty."

Notes:@ Lakers C Andrew Bynum, who hasn't played since injuring his left knee Jan. 13, will be examined Wednesday in Princeton, N.J., by Dr. Steven Gecha. "He's decided to seek another opinion," Lakers spokesman John Black said. The 20-year-old Bynum averaged 13.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots in 35 games before being injured. The Lakers estimated Bynum would be sidelined 8-to-12 weeks. But Jackson said April 21 a return this season was remote, and Bynum said much the same thing last week. A knee specialist examined Bynum in New York on April 10 and declined to clear him for practice.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-05-05-08 1811MDT

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