SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers played more like they were trying to avoid a sweep rather than complete one. The Lakers stormed out to a 22-point lead in the first half, then withstood a brief surge by Utah in the third quarter before regaining control in the fourth and winning 111-96 on Monday night, sweeping the second-round series and advancing to the Western Conference finals for the third straight year. “With close-out games, you have a tendency to lose focus,” said Kobe Bryant, who scored 32 for the Lakers. “We kept our concentration and paid attention to detail.” Pau Gasol added 33 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, who are off until hosting the Phoenix Suns next Monday in Game 1 of the West finals. The Lakers quickly ended Utah’s hopes of extending the series by dominating the second quarter both offensively and defensively, holding Utah to just 17 points in the period. Utah’s push in the third made it at least competitive and exciting for a little while, but the Jazz couldn’t sustain the comeback against the defending NBA champions. “We’re a playoff team and they’re a championship team. They’re just better than we are,” said Deron Williams, who had 21 points and nine assists for the Jazz. The Lakers made very few mistakes and didn’t give the Jazz many chances to rally. Los Angeles had just six turnovers and made 29-of-36 foul shots while knocking Utah out of the playoffs for the third straight year. “We had one of our better games tonight,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “This is the first really consistent game we have played, except for a six-minute stint in the third quarter. We controlled the game and forced our will on our opponent.” Carlos Boozer had 10 points and 14 rebounds, and Kyrylo Fesenko added 12 rebounds for Utah, which was swept for the first time in 21 years. The Jazz lost the first three games by single digits but never found a way to slow down Bryant, who scored 30 or more in all four games. The Lakers finally got a blowout in the final game and by doing so earned a week of rest. Shannon Brown scored 12 and Lamar Odom added 10 points for the Lakers. C.J. Miles scored 15, Wesley Matthews had 12 and Paul Millsap scored 21 off the bench. Utah fans started leaving early and the small contingent wearing gold Lakers’ jerseys chanted “Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!” The Jazz hadn’t been swept since Golden State knocked them out 3-0 in the first round of the 1989 playoffs. “We knew they were a great team and I don’t think anybody had us picked to beat them,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “We had some good moments and some moments that weren’t very good.” After a dreadful second quarter, the Jazz came out in the third and made it close for at least a little while. Utah opened the third with an 11-2 run to get back within range, then cut the lead to 70-65 on a layup by Boozer. But the Lakers withstood the push and finished the period on a 10-2 run and led 80-67 entering the fourth. Derek Fisher, who finished with 10 points, opened the final quarter with a 3-pointer, then drew a foul by Williams behind the arc and made all three foul shots to put the Lakers back up 86-69. Los Angeles led by at least 10 the rest of the way. The Lakers took control early and showed they were intent on finishing the series in Utah rather than having to go home for Game 5. The Lakers discouraged Utah from trying to get inside with some early blocks, and once the Jazz stopped trying, Los Angeles began to pull away. “We all were discouraged. It was kinda deja vu,” Williams said. “It’s always hard to get down 10, 12 points against this team and try and come back.” Shannon Brown leaped for dunks at the end of the first and start of the second during an 8-0 run, then the Lakers added seven straight points later in the period while building a 22-point lead. The Lakers outscored the Jazz 29-17 in the period and Utah grew more dejected with every empty possession. NOTES: Gasol came up just short of his career high of 36 points in the playoffs. … The Lakers were 12 for 23 in the paint in the first quarter and outscored the Jazz in the paint 18-14. … The Jazz outdid the taller Lakers in blocks 8-5. … The Jazz went 18 for 27 from the foul line.
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