Maybe the Jazz will be able to take some consolation in having lost to the eventual Western Conference champions each of the last four years in the playoffs should the Los Angeles Lakers advance to the NBA Finals.
For the time being, though, the Jazz will have to face the disappointment of seeing their season come to an end with the first four-game sweep in franchise history, which the Lakers punctuated with a 111-96 victory Monday at EnergySolutions Arena.
The Jazz fell behind by 22 points during a dismal first half, then made a desperate push in the second half. They closed within five points in the third quarter, but couldn't stop the Lakers from advancing to face Phoenix in the conference finals.
The Lakers eliminated the Jazz from the playoffs for the third consecutive year, with the series growing progressively shorter. The Lakers won in six games in the 2008 conference semifinals and five games in the 2009 first round.
Pau Gasol totaled 33 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Lakers while Kobe Bryant added 32 points (and averaged 32 points for the series). Deron Williams and Paul Millsap each scored 21 points for the Jazz.
Heading into free agency this summer, Carlos Boozer fouled out with 10 points and 14 rebounds but made just 4 of 11 shots and committed four turnovers in what might have been his final game in a Jazz uniform.
The Jazz trailed by 17 points at halftime but made a stand in the third quarter. Wesley Matthews blocked Bryant as the Lakers star tried to isolate against him and C.J. Miles buried a three-pointer at the other end.
Derek Fisher, who was greeted by two female fans wearing green "Fisher Lied" T-shirts in the front row, missed a three-pointer and Williams attacked the basket for a layup as the Lakers called timeout with their lead cut to 65-57.
Miles brought the crowd to its feet as he chased down Fisher on a breakaway and wound up for a full swinging block of Fisher's layup bid. But the Lakers came out of a timeout and outscored the Jazz 8-2 to end the quarter.
Bryant hit a turnaround jumper over Matthews and Boozer was called for his fourth personal as he swatted away Gasol's arm trying to post up. Lamar Odom connected on a three-pointer and Gasol tipped in Bryant's reverse layup to make it 80-67.
Fisher helped finish off his former team by drilling a three-pointer and converting all his free throws after Williams fouled him on a corner three-pointer to give the Lakers a 86-69 lead. Shannon Brown also hit two fourth-quarter three-pointers.
Fisher was the first player to shake hands with Jazz coach Jerry Sloan after the final horn and shared greetings with several former coaches and teammates.
The Jazz posted a 53-29 record, going 34-12 after Jan. 9, but blew their chance at capturing home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs by dropping their regular-season finale at home to Phoenix.
That left the Jazz facing Denver in the first round and stuck on the same side of the bracket as the Lakers. On the eve of the playoffs, Andrei Kirilenko reinjured his calf, and in Game 1 against the Nuggets, Mehmet Okur suffered a devastating ruptured Achilles tendon.
Despite those setbacks, the Jazz delivered a stirring upset of the Nuggets in six games. But they were overmatched against the defending champion Lakers, even if they did lose the first three games of the series by a combined 14 points.
The Lakers flattened the Jazz in the second quarter Monday, with Brown following his dunk to end the first quarter with another after a Ronnie Price turnover in the backcourt. Andrew Bynum followed up a Jordan Farmar miss to make it 33-24.
Bynum blocked both Boozer and Price and the Lakers stretched their lead to 38-27 after Farmar banked in a three-pointer. Brown tossed in a baseline runner to beat the shot clock as the Jazz called timeout trailing 42-29.
It kept getting worse, though, for the Jazz. After the timeout, Matthews looked inside to Boozer only to have Bryant steal his entry pass and Boozer missed a long fadeaway jumper on the baseline.
Boozer finished the half with four points and eight rebounds but went 1-for-6 with three turnovers. Gasol switched hands as he tossed in a hook shot over Kyrylo Fesenko with the Lakers on the way to building a 22-point lead.
The Jazz went into halftime trailing 58-41 after losing the second quarter 29-17. They trailed by double digits the entire fourth quarter, unable to take the series back to Staples Center for a Game 5 on Wednesday.
In short » The Jazz bury themselves with a 22-point deficit in the first half and can't recover as the Lakers sweep the series.
Key moment » The Lakers outscore the Jazz 8-2 to close the third quarter after C.J. Miles' spectacular breakaway block of Derek Fisher.
Key stat » The Jazz become the 14th team in NBA history to be eliminated from the playoffs by the same team in three straight years.
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