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Jazz desperately seeking road win

Jazz desperately seeking road win

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By DOUG ALDEN AP Sports Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Jazz are almost right where they want to be.

The only thing that could top tying the Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers would be if Game 5 was in Utah instead of Los Angeles. The home team has won all four games of the series and the Jazz would need to end that trend in order to advance.

"I think the pressure is on us a little bit. We've got to go out there and prove we can win there," point guard Deron Williams said at practice Monday. "I think we have the confidence now to do that. We just have to come out and have a good start to the ballgame and hopefully that carries over for the rest of the game."

Whoever wins Game 5 on Wednesday will be one victory away from clinching when the series returns to Utah on Friday.

The Jazz evened the series 2-2 on Sunday with a 123-115 overtime win at home. The Jazz needed two straight victories in Utah after falling behind the Lakers 2-0 when the series opened in Los Angeles.

"We have a good chance. We made the series 2-2 and kind of started over," forward Andrei Kirilenko said.

The Jazz feel they have some momentum now after giving the Lakers their first consecutive losses since late March, but one thing Utah is not counting on is Kobe Bryant's back bothering him the way it did Sunday.

Bryant said he had a back spasm early in the first quarter Sunday and was in pain the rest of the game. The Jazz said Monday they didn't notice much of a difference -- Bryant still had 33 points and 10 assists -- and expected the NBA's MVP to be at full strength in Game 5.

If the Lakers win on Wednesday, the remaining possibilities for the Jazz look pretty bleak.

Los Angeles would host Game 7 if the series goes that far. The Jazz would much rather win in on Wednesday and have a chance to clinch at home than lose Game 5 and have to win again in Utah to stay alive and force a final game.

A year ago, Utah won Game 7 at Houston in the first round, but being the road team when it's winner-take-all is not a good position to be in. The Jazz have played well on the road at times this season, just not against the Lakers.

The Lakers swept both regular season games against Utah in Los Angeles and opened the playoff series with two more home wins. The Jazz fell way behind in the first half of both games and were never able to recover.

"We still feel like in L.A. the first two games, we played three good quarters. We just didn't play four," forward Carlos Boozer said.

The Jazz have been an enigma all season, going 37-4 in the regular season, yet struggling on the road. They opened the playoffs with two wins at Houston in the first round and haven't won away from home since.

Utah shot 41 percent in the two games in Los Angeles, then 51 percent at home.

The Jazz will need to find a way to beat the Lakers in the Staples Center for the first time since January 2006 if they are going to win the series.

"Why not? We've done it in the past. We can do it," Kirilenko said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-05-12-08 1721MDT

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