SALT LAKE CITY - Kobe Bryant scored 34 points and the Los Angeles Lakers held off a furious rally by Utah in a 108-105 win last night, putting the Lakers in the Western Conference finals for the first time in four years.
The Jazz trailed by 19 at halftime and 16 at the end of the third quarter, but hit a flurry of 3-pointers to get within 2 points in the final minute. The Jazz had a chance to tie it at the end, but Mehmet Okur and Deron Williams missed 3-pointers in the closing seconds and Utah's season was over.
It was the only win by the visiting team in the series and kept the Lakers from having to host a Game 7 Monday. Bryant will get a chance to rest his ailing back. The Lakers made 11 of 13 foul shots in the fourth quarter while barely holding off Utah's rally.
Bryant also had eight rebounds and six assists. Pau Gasol added 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers.
Williams led Utah with 21 points and 14 assists.
Carlos Boozer had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Mehmet Okur had 16 points and 10 boards, hitting two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter during Utah's comeback. The Jazz were 5 for 8 from beyond the arc in the final period, but could not quite overcome the huge lead the Lakers had built through the first three quarters.
Los Angeles stopped Utah's pick-and-roll and just about everything else the Jazz tried inside until the fourth. The Jazz started hurrying outside shots, which weren't going in and the rebounds seemed to always bounce Gasol's way. Nine of his 11 rebounds in the first half were defensive.
Utah finally started hitting from the outside and getting inside the lane for points in the fourth, but Bryant kept the Lakers from blowing the lead by scoring 12 in the period.