Jazz finish with thud in LA

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- About the only suspense left for the Utah Jazz on Wednesday was when the playoffs begin.

The opponent is already set -- it's the Lakers, who soundly beat the Jazz in their regular season finale on Tuesday to lock in Utah as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

The Jazz needed to win Tuesday to still have a chance to move up a spot or two, depending on the games Wednesday night when the rest of the West ended the regular season. But with the 125-112 loss, Utah is stuck facing the No. 1 seed and defending Western Conference champions.

"We've got no other choice. We can't pick and choose," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said after the game.

Sloan gave his players the day off Wednesday, which could have been a day of anticipation if Utah had been able to win Tuesday.

The Jazz entered the final game of the regular season one game behind the Mavericks and Hornets, which were tied at No. 6 before their final games Wednesday. Utah owned the tiebreakers against both, but there was no chance of tying anybody when the Lakers scored 69 points in the second half and sent the Jazz back to Utah on a very discouraging note.

"There's no way around it. It's just they're the best team in the West," point guard Deron Williams said. "But you know I feel like we can beat them. We just have to steal one here. We haven't been a good road team but you know we have to do it."

Utah went 15-26 on the road this season -- 0-2 against the Lakers in the Staples Center. The Jazz haven't won there in years, including three games during the Western Conference semifinals last spring when the Lakers won the series in six games.

Tuesday's outcome didn't give much reason for hope. The Lakers shot 56 percent, making eight of 13 3-pointers, and had pulled ahead by enough that Kobe Bryant got to rest much of the fourth quarter.

"Everybody has to play well. We can't come out there and try to compete with two or three guys and guys getting lost on defense, the way we did," Sloan said. "We're going to have to complete awfully hard to play against them."

The Jazz were scheduled to resume practice Thursday. By then, they would know how quickly they have to return for two more games against the Lakers.

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

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