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Jazz confident as series heads back to L.A.

Jazz confident as series heads back to L.A.



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By DOUG ALDEN AP Sports Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Jazz and Lakers are headed back to Los Angeles right where they were before the Western Conference semifinals began: Even.

Utah's 123-115 overtime win over the Lakers on Sunday completed a two-game home sweep for the Jazz that tied the series 2-2.

"It's really big. Really, really big," Utah guard Ronnie Price said. "We turned it into a series now."

Price had four fresh stitches closing a cut over his right eye after one of the more physical games in the series, which returns to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Wednesday.

That gives Kobe Bryant an extra day to rest his ailing back, which he said went out on him early in the first quarter Sunday and bothered him the rest of the game. He still scored 33 points and had 10 assists and eight rebounds.

Bryant, who stood instead of sitting during his postgame news conference, said he would play -- sore back or not -- on Wednesday.

"I should be OK," he said.

Even with a limited Bryant, the Lakers rallied from a 12-point deficit in the final four minutes of regulation to force overtime. But instead of losing their composure, the Jazz played their best defense of the playoffs in the overtime.

The Jazz held the Lakers to two field goals in overtime and went 9-for-9 from the foul line while outscoring the Lakers 15-7.

"We did a good job keeping our poise, doing what we needed to win," said Deron Williams, who had 29 points and 14 assists.

Carlos Boozer scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half and grabbed 12 rebounds. Mehmet Okur added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Andrei Kirilenko finished with 15 points and five blocks -- including two on Bryant in overtime. Kirilenko also converted a three-point play that put Utah up by five points. The Jazz were perfect at the line as the Lakers fouled trying to catch up.

The Jazz took 20 more free throws than the Lakers, who made the discrepancy worse by missing 11 of 25 foul shots.

Lamar Odom had 26 points and 13 rebounds, and Pau Gasol scored 23 and pulled down 10 boards for the Lakers. Derek Fisher finished with 15 points, scoring 10 straight as the Lakers rallied in the fourth.

"We were right there," Odom said. "In overtime, we didn't play as well as they did. They deserved it."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said the Lakers were depending too much on Bryant.

"I still thought he went to the basket hard at the end," Jackson said. "He was still able to get to the basket and do what he wanted to do. He was out there to make plays."

Utah's reserves outscored the Lakers' 39-16. Price scored four and had two plays that fired up his teammates. The first was when he took a hard foul from Ronny Turiaf in the second quarter and went crashing to the floor, bouncing his head off the hardwood.

Turiaf was called for a flagrant foul and ejected. Price ended up with the four stitches, but said he didn't think Turiaf was trying to hurt him.

In the fourth quarter, Price -- with a bandage over the stitches -- sprinted back on defense after missing a 3-pointer and blocked Luke Walton's layup attempt.

"That was the play of the game," Boozer said.

The Lakers struggled in the extra period and didn't score until a layup by Bryant with 1:10 remaining cut Utah's lead to 112-110. Los Angeles could tie or take the lead with one shot, but Okur saved Utah with an offensive rebound that burned time and eventually led to Kirilenko's clinching three-point play.

The Jazz improved to 4-1 at home in the playoffs. Utah is 2-3 on the road in the postseason, losing the first two of this series in Los Angeles.

"We're confident now but we still need to prove we can win on the road," Williams said.

Notes:@ Three stars from "High School Musical" signed a ball during a timeout in the second quarter. The runaway hit movie's third installment is being filmed at East High School. ... Paul Millsap put Utah up 31-21 with one second left in the first quarter, then intercepted the Lakers' inbounds pass. ... The Lakers opened the game 4-for-14 from the floor, then went 12-for-17 in the second quarter and caught up to the Jazz just before halftime after trailing by 11.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-05-12-08 0203MDT

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