Lakers rally to get past Jazz

Published 2:28 am Monday, May 3, 2010

LOS ANGELES — 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.

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.