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Lakers lead series 2-0 over Jazz

Lakers lead series 2-0 over Jazz



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(AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

By JOHN NADEL
AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Lakers celebrated Kobe Bryant's MVP award the best way possible.

Bryant had 34 points, eight rebounds and six assists Wednesday night, and the Lakers beat the Utah Jazz 120-110 to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals and remain the NBA's only unbeaten team in the postseason.

The series shifts to Utah for Games 3 and 4 on Friday night and Sunday. The Jazz had an NBA-best 37-4 home record this season, but one of the losses was by 11 points to the Lakers on March 20.

Bryant received his Most Valuable Player trophy from NBA commissioner David Stern in a brief ceremony before the game.

"I'm at a loss for words, I don't know what to say," Bryant said as the Staples Center crowd of 18,997 roared its approval and chanted M-V-P. "I love you guys so much. We're going to play until June. Let's get this party started."

The 29-year-old Bryant was a runaway winner of his first MVP award, receiving 82 first-place votes and 1,100 points to far outdistance New Orleans' Chris Paul in the voting of 126 media members. The results were announced Tuesday.

Following the presentation, Bryant's wife and two young daughters gave him with a bouquet of flowers at center court.

Derek Fisher, who played for Utah last season, added 22 points, Pau Gasol scored 20, and Lamar Odom had 19 points and 16 rebounds for the Lakers, who shot 57.4 percent from the field and made 35 free throws -- 22 more than the Jazz.

Seven Utah players scored in double figures, led by Deron Williams, who had 25 points, including three 3-pointers in the final minute, and 10 assists. Paul Millsap added a career playoff-high 17 points and 10 rebounds, Mehmet Okur scored 16 points and Andrei Kirilenko added 14. Okur and Kirilenko both fouled out in the final minute.

Carlos Boozer was held to 10 points -- all in the second half. He played less than seven minutes in the first half because of foul trouble.

The Jazz outrebounded the Lakers 58-41 in Game 1, but lost 109-98. They won the battle of the backboards again 41-37, but shot 44.6 percent while attempting a season-high 101 shots -- 33 more than Los Angeles.

The Jazz outscored the Lakers 11-4 to get within five points with just under six minutes to play. But a jumper by Sasha Vujacic, a 3-pointer by Fisher and a free throw by Gasol extended the Lakers' lead to 105-94 with 4:26 left.

A three-point play by Kirilenko made it 107-99 before Bryant fed Gasol for a dunk with 2:40 to go, and the Jazz weren't closer than six points after that.

The Jazz drew within nine points early in the third quarter before Bryant outscored them 9-4 by himself to make it 82-68. A 3-pointer by Williams with 1.5 seconds left in the third quarter trimmed the Lakers' lead to 93-83.

The Lakers led 55-40 before Williams made a 3-pointer for his only points of the first half. It was 63-49 at halftime, and it might have been worse for the Jazz had Millsap not scored 13 points -- three more than his previous playoff high.

Williams and Boozer combined to average 39.9 points during the regular season and 35.8 points in Utah's first seven playoff games. They totaled three points in the first half of Game 2.

The Lakers made their first six shots, but trailed by one before Bryant scored six points and Odom added four during a 13-0 run that gave them a 25-13 lead. Boozer left with two fouls and Utah coach Jerry Sloan picked up a technical before Ronnie Brewer's jumper ended the spurt.

The Jazz drew within eight before two 3-pointers by Fisher and a basket by Ronny Turiaf made it 33-18 at the end of the first quarter. Boozer was scoreless when he went to the bench again just 19 seconds into the second quarter after picking up his third foul, and didn't return until the second half. Notes:@ Only 13 of the 211 teams that lost the first two games in a best-of-seven NBA playoff series have overcome that deficit to advance. ... Teams coached by Phil Jackson are 39-0 when winning the opener of a playoff series -- 24-0 with the Chicago Bulls and 15-0 with the Lakers. ... Sloan is fourth on the all-time regular-season wins list with 1,089 victories and Jackson ranks sixth with 976. Jackson is the overall leader in the postseason with 185 wins while Sloan is sixth with 91. ... The Lakers have a 15-3 record at Staples Center against the Jazz since the arena opened before the 1999-2000 season.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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