The Los Angeles Lakers held off the Utah Jazz 111-104 on Wednesday to move within one victory of advancing in the National Basketball Association playoffs.
Pau Gasol made two key baskets down the stretch for the Lakers, who took a three-games-to-two lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference second-round series.
Spain’s Gasol finished with 21 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and NBA Most Valuable Player Kobe Bryant scored 26 points for the Lakers, who can wrap up the series with a victory in Game 6 at Salt Lake City today.
The Jazz were an NBA-leading 37-4 at home during the regular season, with one of their rare home defeats coming against the Lakers.
“Make a couple of darn shots, that’s it, that’s what we have to do,” Bryant said of what it will take to win in Utah.
“At home teams play with more energy on defensive end,” he added. “We certainly did tonight. We just have to carry that over. We will. We’re a pretty good road team. Utah’s an excellent home team, but we’ve played pretty well in Utah.”
Mehmet Okur’s putback pulled the Jazz within one point, but Gasol answered with a basket then added another off Sasha Vujacic’s missed three-pointer to make it 107-102 with 20 seconds to play.
The game was tied at 81-81 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Jazz were never able to take the lead.
Reserve point guard Jordan Farmar converted a three-point play early in the fourth, and Lamar Odom was fouled on a dunk and converted the three-point play that saw the Lakers extend their lead to 97-91 with 6:19 to play.
The Jazz would battle back to within one point on a three-pointer by Deron Williams with 2:18 left.
On the next possession, Bryant spun through the lane and found Odom open for a dunk. Okur came back with a layup to get the Jazz again within one, before Gasol struck.
“Obviously, the game was on the line and we had to just bring out everything we had left,” Gasol said.
“It was a tough game, a very physical game. They played very aggressive, and we had to fight for every possession. Basically I had to dig inside of me and bring up some energy and some effectiveness,” said Gasol, who had been manhandled by the Jazz in the previous two games.
■ CELTICS DOWN CAVS
AFP, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
The Boston Celtics rallied for a 96-89 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday to move within one game of advancing in the playoffs.
Kevin Garnett scored eight of his 26 points in a furious third quarter, and Rajon Rondo finished with 20 points and 13 assists as the Celtics stayed perfect at home this postseason.
With the victory the Celtics took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series, from which the winner will advance to a meeting with the Detroit Pistons in the conference finals.
Paul Pierce had a team-high 29 points — including eight on free throws in the final 1:23.
Game 6 will be today in Cleveland, where the Celtics haven’t won since 2004. The Celtics are 0-5 on the road in the playoffs, but have dominated at home.
Cleveland superstar LeBron James looked like he might turn the tables early. He scored 11 points in the first quarter and was up to 23 when a jump shot late in the second quarter stretched the Cavaliers’ lead to 43-29.
However James didn’t score again until the final minute of the third quarter. By then, Garnett and Rondo had taken over.