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Boozer breaks out of slump with a big Game 3

Boozer breaks out of slump with a big Game 3



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By DOUG ALDEN AP Sports Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Jazz are back in the Western Conference semifinals thanks to another performance at home that was nothing like the way they play on the road.

The Jazz beat the Lakers 104-99 Friday night, cutting Los Angeles' lead in the series to 2-1 with Game 4 on Sunday in Utah. The Jazz are 4-1 in the playoffs at home and went 37-4 here during the regular season.

The Jazz hit exactly half their shots and forced the Lakers into 18 turnovers, hardly resembling the team that stumbled through two losses in Los Angeles to open the series.

"Both of those games in LA, we had a bad first half. I thought if we'd have a good first half, we'd have a better chance to win the game," said Carlos Boozer, who scored 27 points and tied his career playoff high with 20 rebounds for Utah.

The first half was good and the second even better as the Jazz never let go of the lead they took early in the second period. Boozer scored 11 and pulled down seven rebounds in the fourth quarter as the Jazz answered every run the Lakers made.

His 27 points were two more than what he scored in the first two games of the series combined. Boozer also hopes this means that he has shaken his recent slump.

"I feel like I have a big responsibility to my team and if I don't play well, I feel I let them down. To bounce back this way means a lot to me and I'm going to try and do the same thing on Sunday," Boozer said.

The series returns to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Wednesday.

The Lakers, meanwhile, are 6-1 in the playoffs and still lead the Jazz 2-1 in the series.

"We don't get too up and we don't too down. We just punch the clock," said Kobe Bryant, who had 34 points seven assists and six rebounds. "We'll look at things we did wrong, make some adjustments and get ready for the next one."

Nobody else scored more than 13 points for Los Angeles.

"We made mistakes but we kept playing hard. Before, we made mistakes and we felt sorry for ourselves. Tonight we kept playing hard," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.

Utah's offense was stagnant in the first two games, but on Friday the Jazz started hitting from the outside and moving the ball around enough to clear the inside for the layups their offense is designed to create. Boozer started slowly, but finished 12-for-21 and had 11 points and seven rebounds in the fourth quarter.

Deron Williams added 18 points and 12 assists for the Jazz, who had the best home record in the regular season.

"It was just a solid game for us tonight," Williams said. "We pushed the ball in transition and got some easy things going. Guys were hitting shots and our confidence kept carrying over."

The Lakers were 6-0 entering Friday's game. After falling behind by 13 points, the Lakers made several runs in the second half and got as close as three points. Utah always came up with a steal, block or rebound to end the threat.

"This team is good enough for us to lose to and we have to understand that and play our best game at all times," said Lakers forward Lamar Odom, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers. "We could have lost to anyone playing like that."

Mehmet Okur scored 22 points for the Jazz, making 4-of-7 3-pointers, while Andrei Kirilenko and Matt Harpring both added 12 points.

Los Angeles went on a 6-0 run to get within 95-92, then Boozer went to work. He hit a hook shot over Luke Walton in the lane to put Utah up 97-92, then Bryant lost the ball while falling and didn't get the foul call he wanted. The Jazz used 23 of the 24 seconds they had on the shot clock and Boozer made a shot over Odom.

After Bryant missed a 3-point attempt, the Jazz got the rebound and went to Boozer again for a 101-92 lead with 1:57 left.

The Lakers got within four in the final minute, but Williams crashed to the court while going after a loose ball. The officials called for a jump ball and Williams lined up across from 7-foot Lakers center Pau Gasol. Williams had no chance to outjump Gasol, but the play ate up some more time.

Notes:@ The Jazz outscored Lakers in the paint 24-14 in first half. ... Utah made eight of its first 10 shots in the second quarter. ... Bryant was 14-for-17 from the line. ... Walton finished with 11 points.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-05-10-08 0305MDT

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