May 2 - Staples Center, Los Angeles - Kobe Bryant scored 13 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, including 11 in the final four minutes to allow his team to beat the Utah Jazz 104-99 in the first game of their Western Conference Semifinal series.
Pau Gasol also had a good game with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocked shots for the Lakers that led for most of the first three quarters and entered the fourth leading 81-73. But with Bynum as the only starter on the floor the Jazz used 6 points by Paul Millsap to go on a 8-1 run and get to 81-82. Phil Jackson sent his first unit back into the game with 7:31 left but Utah still scored the next 4 points to take an 85-82 lead.
With 4 minutes remaining the Jazz still had a 4 point lead but then Kobe scored the next 7 for the Lakers to regain control of the game. They also played good defense and allowed Utah just one field goal in those final four minutes.
In the absence of a high scoring wing to defend Ron Artest was sent after point guard Deron Williams in multiple occasions. Williams, despite being bothered by a injured elbow, scored 24 points and dished 8 assists for the Jazz showing why he's considered one of the best point guards in the league. Carlos Boozer added 18 points and 12 rebounds.
In the final game against the Thunder Andrew Bynum suffered a small tear in some cartilage in his right knee and will have to undergo surgery but he decided to postpone it until the summer. This is not a new injury since he had been playing pain-free with a smaller tear in the area that worsened slightly when he sustained a hyper-extended knee in that game. Against Utah the Lakers center was obviously limited on his speed and jump but contributed 8 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes. This situation made more room for Lamar Odom who had a couple of key plays at the end including a big block and later an offensive rebound followed by two points that gave the Lakers a 98-95 lead with 49 seconds left.
The Jazz eliminated Denver in the first round but they have many injury problems including Andrei Kirilenko still sidelined with a strained left calf and center Mehmet Okur who is out for the rest of the playoffs.
Phil Jackson won his 103rd playoff game coaching Los Angeles to pass Pat Riley for the franchise lead. The teams coached by him are 45-0 in playoff series after winning the first game, and that includes 21-0 with the Lakers.