SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—It took Kobe Bryant only a few minutes to end his shooting slump.
Bryant scored Los Angeles’ first 11 points and once his teammates joined in, the Lakers overwhelmed the Jazz 108-94 on Saturday night and moved within one game of advancing to the second round.
“It was important for me to come out and be a little more assertive,” said Bryant, who scored 38 two nights after one of his worst shooting games in years.
Bryant went 16-for-24, erasing any memories of his 5-for-24 night Thursday in the Lakers’ only loss of the series.
“We never could get close enough to guard him,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “I think he put everyone on his back and got them off to the way they wanted to play.”
He scored in double figures in each of the first three quarters and more than doubled his scoring from Game 4.
“Coming off that semi-bad performance—that horrible performance I had in that last game,” Bryant said with a grin, “it feels good to respond with a game like this.”
The Jazz won Game 3 on Thursday, holding Bryant to 18 points. That got Utah within 2-1 in the series, but also stirred Bryant and the Jazz paid for it.
“You could see he came out on a mission tonight,” said Deron Williams, who had 23 points and 13 assists for the Jazz.
Carlos Boozer also scored 23 and pulled down 16 rebounds for Utah.
The Lakers staggered the Jazz with 40 points in the second quarter, then completed the knockout in the third with defense, holding Utah to just 16 points. The Jazz hurt themselves by going 2-for-6 from the foul line and were outrebounded 15-8 and the Lakers stretched the lead to 19.
“We put two quarters together tonight in the middle of the game that gave us some advantage and we were able to walk this one home,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Utah got within five twice early in the third, then Bryant and the Lakers smothered the comeback. Bryant scored six during an 8-2 run, hitting two jumpers and adding two free throws to put the Lakers up 72-61 with 7:54 left in the period.
“He came out extremely aggressive,” Gasol said. “You could tell he was ready to leave that Game 3 behind.”
Gasol and Odom shut down the lane, keeping the Jazz from establish much inside. When the Jazz did get down low, they missed and didn’t get the foul calls they wanted.
“We thought we’d put a better effort forward tonight,” Williams said. “I was kind of disappointed in the way we came out and disappointed our fans a little bit.”
Utah’s usually-rowdy fans were leaving throughout the fourth quarter of what may well have been the final home game of the season. The Lakers first silenced the crowd in the second period, making 12 of their first 18 shots and finished the period 14-for-20, outscoring the Jazz 40-28 while taking a 60-53 halftime lead.
Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic and Shannon Brown made consecutive 3-pointers for the Lakers during a 9-2 spurt that put Los Angeles ahead 36-34 while Bryant rested on the bench. Bryant returned with 7:02 left in the second and led the Lakers on a 7-2 run, slipping in a reverse layup after a turnover to put the Lakers ahead 43-36 and prompting a timeout by Utah with 5:10 left.
“He was hot right off the bat and continued his onslaught basically during the course of the half,” Jackson said.
Utah managed to cut it to 60-53 at halftime. Williams made two foul shots with 3.9 seconds left, then Boozer tipped Walton’s long inbounds pass back to Williams, who drove for a layup and drew a foul on Walton with 0.2 seconds left. Williams made the free throw and the Lakers’ lead was down to seven points after standing at 12 just four seconds earlier.
Center Mehmet Okur returned for Utah in his first game since straining his right hamstring April 13 and was obviously rusty after the layoff, finishing with two rebounds and no points.
Utah lost the first two games of the series in Los Angeles and went 0-3 there last year in the second round when the Lakers knocked out the Jazz in six games.
“The series is not over. We’ve still got a little hope,” Williams said. “We know it’s going to be tough to win 3 in a row against these guys, but we should be playing free and loose.”
By DOUG ALDEN