Lakers earn 65th victory, beat Utah 125-112

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LOS ANGELES -- The 82-game grind is over for the Los Angeles Lakers. Now comes the time of the season this storied franchise exists for.

Andrew Bynum scored 22 points in his best effort since returning from injury and the Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz 125-112 Tuesday night to close the regular season as the third-winningest team in franchise history. They tied the 1986-87 team with their 65th victory, trailing only the 1971- 72 team (69) and 1999-00 team (67).

"Sixty-five wins with some of the injuries we've had is an accomplishment," Kobe Bryant said.

Pau Gasol added 20 points and nine rebounds, Bryant and Lamar Odom had 16 points each, and Sasha Vujacic 15 points for the Lakers, who won their sixth in a row at home.

Deron Williams had 25 points and 13 assists for the Jazz, and reserve Andrei Kirilenko added 20 points to go with 16 points by Carlos Boozer and 14 by Ronnie Brewer.

Bynum added four rebounds and three assists in his fourth game back after missing 32 games because of a torn right knee ligament. "I'm definitely excited," he said. "I think my adrenaline is going to carry me through the first game."

The Lakers open the playoffs this weekend against the Jazz, who ended their schedule in the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot. "We didn't give them much of a battle and knowing that we're going to have to play them again, it looks pretty bleak," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "Hate to say that, but it's one of those things."

The Lakers improved to 16-3 all-time against Utah at Staples Center, winning the last six in a row against the Jazz at home.

"There's a whole new season starting. Everybody's healthy, so we'll get everybody on the same page and see what it's all about," Sloan said. "We're just like a little dent in the road as far as they're concerned. They're very comfortable playing against us, and obviously they should be."

The Lakers already clinched the top seed in the West to secure home-court advantage throughout the conference finals. But Cleveland edged them for the league's best record, guaranteeing LeBron and Co. home court through the NBA finals if they get there.

"We had two goals," Vujacic said. "Finish first in the regular season and we didn't do that, but we have the ultimate goal and that's most important. We have 16 games ahead of us to win."

Los Angeles took the game's first double-digit lead, 94-83, on Jordan Farmar's 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter. It was part of a 13-2 run that included treys by Bryant and Vujacic and pushed the Lakers' lead to 104-85.

They never looked back, with Bryant going to the bench to rest up for what he hopes is a repeat trip to the NBA finals.

The Lakers started the third quarter on a 12-4 run, with Bryant assisting on 3-pointers by Trevor Ariza and Derek Fisher, to go up 68-59. But the Jazz answered with a 15-7 spurt, including nine in a row, and closed to 75-74. Williams scored six and Brewer added five.

The Lakers responded over the final 2:42, outscoring the Jazz 16-9 to take a 91-83 lead into the fourth period. Bryant scored six points and assisted on another 3-pointer, this one by Shannon Brown.

Both teams shot better than 50 percent in the first half, when the Lakers were whistled for 17 fouls that led to Utah shooting 21-of-29 from the free-throw line.

In all, the Jazz took 47 foul shots.

"That's ridiculous for a team to give up," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.

Los Angeles trailed by eight points twice in the second quarter before recovering to lead 56-55 at halftime. The Lakers closed the first half on a 20-11 run, including nine by Vujacic and five by Odom while Bryant watched from the bench after playing just 10 minutes in the half.

Notes: Utah starting F C.J. Miles (dislocated left index finger) and C Mehmet Okur (mild right hamstring strain) didn't play. ... The Lakers beat the Jazz in six games in last year's playoffs. ... The Lakers won the season series, 2-1. ... The Jazz used their 20th different starting lineup of the season. ... Dodgers teammates Matt Kemp and James Loney watched the game together, while Jack Nicholson and Denzel Washington were in their usual courtside seats.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Beth Harris Sports Writer


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