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Utah Jazz hand L.A. Lakers their sixth straight loss

Bryant's scores 43 points in defeat

Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2005

SALT LAKE CITY - Not even 43 points from Kobe Bryant could stop the Los Angeles Lakers' playoff stretch tailspin.

The Utah Jazz shut down Bryant in the fourth quarter, holding him to four points in a 115-107 win Tuesday night and extending the Lakers' losing streak to six straight.

"We made somebody else beat us," said Utah's Matt Harpring, who had 23 points and five assists. "Once Kobe drove, we were coming off to give help. He was the main focus. We tried to get him to give up the ball."

The strategy worked almost perfectly. Utah came back from a seven-point deficit and outscored the Lakers 33-19 in the final period.

Mehmet Okur had 27 points and 16 rebounds for the Utah Jazz, who stopped a season-long nine-game losing streak and won the season series against the Lakers for the first time since 1999, taking three of four games.

"There's no personal vendetta against them. It's just that we won. That's the biggest thing," Harpring said. "If we played like we did tonight this whole season, we'd be in the playoffs right now."

The Lakers are in their longest losing streak in 11 years and it's happening at the worst possible time. Combined with Denver's 127-98 win over Washington on Tuesday, the Lakers fell 4 1/2 games behind the Nuggets for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles has 15 games remaining to try to make up the ground.

"You can't give up 100 points every night and expect to make the playoffs," Lakers coach Frank Hamblen said.

Utah hadn't won since beating Atlanta on March 2 and hadn't scored 100 points since losing to Boston 109-102 Feb. 25. And the Jazz did it without leading scorer Carlos Boozer, who's on the injured list, and shooting guard Raja Bell - who sat out the game with a bruised left leg.

The Jazz are in the midst of their first losing season since 1982-83, but salvaged a little bit Tuesday night with a win that puts another dent in the Lakers' playoff push. It also tied Utah coach Jerry Sloan with Red Auerbach's 938 coaching wins, sixth on the all-time NBA list.

"We had a lot of guys who played very well and that made a big difference in giving us a chance to win a ballgame," Sloan said. "It was a nice effort tonight - for everybody. I thought we played hard tonight."

Gordan Giricek, making his first start since Feb. 1, scored a season-high 22 points for the Jazz. Andrei Kirilenko had 18 points, five blocks and five assists coming off the bench as Sloan shook up the starting lineup to try to break the skid.

"Winning tonight is good. It's been too long a wait," Kirilenko said.

Utah's defense in the final quarter was the difference. After making 9 of 11 3-pointers in the first three quarters, Bryant finally cooled off. And Utah's pressure didn't hurt and once the long shots stopped falling for Bryant, the Laker offense struggled as bad as the defense.

"The frustrating part is our defense. We're doing a terrible job of team defense," Bryant said. "We gave up layups in the fourth quarter - at a critical juncture of the game - instead of making them work for it."

Utah appeared on the verge of its 10th straight loss when Brian Grant made 1 of 2 free throws to put Los Angeles up 91-84 with 10:36 remaining. But Okur and Harpring each converted three-point plays during a 10-3 Utah run that got the Jazz back into it.

The game was tied at 100 when Keith McLeod, who had nine points and six assists, hit a jumper from the corner as the shot clock was about to expire to put Utah ahead to stay.

Harpring converted another three-point play and made a layup off two quick passes from Giricek and Okur with about 1:30 remaining during an 11-3 run for the Jazz.

Utah was 10-for-11 from the free throw line in the final quarter and Okur capped it all with a 3-pointer to put Utah up 115-105.

Chucky Atkins and Jumaine Jones scored 17 apiece for the Lakers and Caron Butler added 12 points and five assists.



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