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Jazz: Kobe's feeling better, so Utah might not be
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Kobe Bryant is no longer hurting.

That means the Utah Jazz might be.

Bryant reported Monday that he had played two games in the Lakers' first-round series against Oklahoma City last week "on basically one leg."

Bryant scored 25 points on 9-for-19 shooting in those games, both of which ended in Laker losses and extended the series against the underdog Thunder to six games.

During a 104-99 win in Game 1 of a second-round series against Utah, however, Bryant played spectacularly well.

He scored in bunches -- 10 points in a four- minute span of the first quarter and 13 of the Lakers' 19 points in the final 5 1/2 minutes.

Bryant finished with 31 on 12-for-19 shooting as L.A. took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes Tuesday night.

After the Lakers' off-day practice, Bryant was asked about the injured finger and sore knee that hindered him against Oklahoma City.

"I feel great ... very [encouraged]," he said. "I felt great out there. I was surprised by how much I was able to move around."

Bryant's improved health can't help the Jazz's chances against the Lakers, who have won nine of 12 playoff games against Utah since 2008.

Still, Bryant believes the Jazz have gained confidence because of their near-miss in the opener.

Utah owned a 93-89 lead with four minutes left before Bryant scored 11 of the Lakers' next 13 points.

Asked what he expects from Utah in Game 2, he said, "Execution. Ball movement. A lot of holding. A lot of scratching. A lot of clawing. They are going to come ready to play. It's going to be a physical contest."

According to Bryant, another stout effort on defense and more production from the Lakers' second unit are critical.

The Jazz shot only 44.7 percent in Game 1, including 5-for-18 from the 3-point line.

Utah managed only six points -- and one field goal -- in its final 11 possessions.

"We executed well," Bryant said. "We got away from it a little bit [and] got them back in the game. They had too many easy opportunities -- points in the paint. But, down the stretch, we did a pretty good job stopping them."

During a five-game series in the first round of the playoffs last year, the Lakers limited the Jazz to an average of 97.4 points.

The bad news for Utah?

Bryant says this Laker team isn't as dangerous offensively, but it is improved on defense.

"And to win championships, that's what you have to do -- defend and rebound," Bryant said. "I think we're much more of a defensive team this year and that's what gets it done, so we always try to focus on that."

The Lakers' biggest problem in Game 1 was bench production. Utah's nonstarters outscored L.A.'s second unit 25-22.

Sixth man Lamar Odom, who had nine points and 12 rebounds, was upset with his teammates.

"I'm not taking away anything from" the Jazz, Odom said. "I just know how we can play -- the second unit. We can play a lot better -- together, using each other, playing off each other. ... This is a good time to change it around."

Told Odom was upset, Bryant said, "He should be."

luhm@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">luhm@sltrib.com

Kobe's feeling better, so Utah might not be

Western Conference semifinals » Bryant's health has improved since the first round, when he played 'on basically one leg.'
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