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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Kobe-led Lakers earn win over Jazz at charity stripe

LOS ANGELES (AP) Kobe Bryant made most of the shots that mattered, which he didn't view as any great accomplishment.

News photo
Tough shot: Lakers star Kobe Bryant (left) attempts a shot while be ing fouled by Utah's Ronnie Brewer during the third quarter of Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal contest on Sunday in Los Angeles. AP PHOTO

That's because there was nary a hand in his face when he took them.

Bryant, celebrating what's expected to be his first NBA MVP award, converted six of his franchise playoff-record 21 foul shots in the fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Lakers held off the Utah Jazz 109-98 Sunday to begin the second round of the playoffs.

Bryant finished with 38 points, six rebounds and seven assists, and the Lakers made it five straight victories to begin the postseason after winning eight of their last nine regular-season games to earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

"You've got to be able to knock those free throws down. They're open looks," said Bryant, who made his first 18 foul shots before missing two of his last five to finish 21-of-23.

"It's my responsibility to knock them down."

Los Angeles shot 38-of-46 from the foul line, while Utah went 22-of-30. The teams spent most of the final period going from one foul line to the other, with the Lakers going 14-of-19 from the line and the Jazz 10-of-12. Twenty-four of the 60 personal fouls were called in the last 12 minutes.

"It's an incredible night to have 23 foul shots," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I know that Utah's not going to be happy about it.

"We'll probably see about half that in the next game, if not less. So for him to do that, it was our biggest scoring threat of the night right there."

Utah coach Jerry Sloan said he didn't have a problem with Bryant's many trips to the foul line.

"They called them, he shot them, that's fine," Sloan said. "I can't do anything about that."

There were some other unexpected numbers. For one, the Jazz outrebounded the Lakers 58-41, with 25 of their rebounds at the offensive end. For another, Utah attempted 95 shots to match its regular-season high, but converted only 36 (37.9 percent).

"We had open shots, we couldn't make them," Sloan said.

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