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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kobe saves day as Lakers win Game 1

LOS ANGELES (AP) While the Los Angeles Lakers' reserves haplessly gave away the lead early in the fourth quarter, the Utah Jazz celebrated every basket with increasing glee, spilling off their bench in anticipation of an upset.

News photo
Up and in: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant goes up for a shot between Jazz defenders Wesley Matthews, left, and Deron Williams during their game on Sunday in Los Angeles. AP PHOTO

Even the Hollywood crowd was tense, with many fans anxiously kneading or waving the giveaway white T-shirts they apparently were too cool to wear.

"It was tough," Kobe Bryant said. "But when it got really tough for me, I just checked myself in."

A few minutes after Bryant checked in, the Jazz were checkmated in these familiar rivals' second-round opener.

Bryant scored 11 of his 31 points in the final four minutes, and the Lakers blew a fourth-quarter lead before rallying for a 104-99 victory Sunday.

Pau Gasol had 25 points and 12 rebounds while blocking five shots for the top-seeded Lakers, whose backups were nearly run off the court by the fired-up Jazz before Bryant seized control.

Last season's NBA finals MVP coolly scored seven consecutive points to erase Utah's four-point lead, followed by a dynamic slice through the lane for a layup with 22.6 seconds left. Los Angeles also did it with defense, holding the Jazz to one field goal in the final 4:10.

"We put ourselves in a little bit of a hole and let them gain all the momentum," Bryant said. "At that point, you've just got to buckle down."

Los Angeles will host Game 2 of the best-of-seven series Tuesday night. The clubs are meeting in the postseason for the third consecutive year after the Lakers ended Utah's last two seasons, including a first-round victory in 2009.

Perhaps that familiarity was one reason the Lakers again had trouble getting too excited for this one — a mood matched by the home crowd.

After the Lakers' consecutive first-round losses to Oklahoma City inspired a crackling atmosphere for their blowout victory in Game 5 last week, Staples Center reverted to its usual relaxed state. Los Angeles handed out thousands of white shirts in an apparent attempt at a whiteout crowd to go with the Lakers' Sunday white uniforms, but the majority of fans didn't bother to actually wear them.

Hawks 95, Bucks 74

In Atlanta, with more than three minutes to go, the Hawks began pulling their starters. Al Horford flapped his hands, egging on the already raucous crowd. Joe Johnson clapped for the fans, then dropped his head in what looked more like relief than celebration.

The Hawks were moving on in the playoffs.

What a contrast from the last game in Atlanta.

After keeping their season alive with a gutty win in Milwaukee, the Hawks made sure the Bucks were in no position to duplicate their improbable Game 5 road win. Playoff rookie Jamal Crawford scored 22 points, Horford put up a double-double and Atlanta pulled away for a win Sunday that gave the Hawks a 4-3 triumph in the tougher-than-expected series.

LeBron named MVP

AKRON , Ohio (AP) LeBron James has won his second straight NBA MVP award, dominating the voting just as he dominated on court all season.

The Cleveland Cavaliers star received 116 of a possible 123 first-place votes to win in a landslide Sunday over Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant. Durant was picked first on four ballots.

James led the Cavaliers to 61 regular-season wins. He averaged 29.7 points, 8.6 assists and 7.3 rebounds. He is the 10th player to win consecutive MVP awards.



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