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Lakers cruise past Jazz in NBA playoff opener
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Pardon Phil Jackson's lack of enthusiasm for how the Los Angeles Lakers played in the second half. They piled up 62 points on Utah in the first half, then got outscored over the final 24 minutes.

"It wasn't a coach's delight, that's for sure," he said.

But his players sure liked the outcome, a 113-100 victory over the Jazz in the teams' playoff opener Sunday.

Kobe Bryant scored 24 points, Trevor Ariza added 21 and Pau Gasol 20 as the Lakers pretty much had their way against the eighth-seeded Jazz. They led by 22 points at halftime and then answered resoundingly both times Utah got within nine in the second half.

"They kept knocking on the door and we just never let them in," Bryant said.

Bryant's total gave him 3,710 career postseason points, moving him past Magic Johnson and into ninth on the NBA's list.

Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (4,070) and Jerry West (4,457) have scored more points in the playoffs with the Lakers.

"They (Utah) did a good job hanging in there," Bryant told reporters. "That's what Utah does. They scrap, claw, they got a lot of free throws that kept them in the game, but we were able to keep the cushion."

Ariza praise

Bryant, who dished out four of his eight assists in the first quarter, was especially pleased with the play of Ariza.

"He's playing phenomenal basketball," Bryant said. "When he first got here, a lot of people questioned his shooting ability. I don't think people question his shooting anymore."

Ariza hit eight-of-10 shots from the floor, including a trio of three-pointers.

"They were double-teaming everybody else, so my team mates told me if I was open, shoot the ball and that was what I was doing," Ariza said.

Carlos Boozer led the Jazz with 27 points and Deron Williams added 16 points and a career playoff-high 17 assists.

However, both were plagued by foul trouble, with Boozer getting his third just before halftime when Williams already had two.

Utah also missed Mehmet Okur, who sat out with a mild right hamstring strain.

Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is on Tuesday.

(Reuters via China Daily April 21, 2009)

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