SALT LAKE CITY — Kobe Bryant tried a new offensive approach in Game 4 and Phil Jackson made a change to his starting lineup tonight. Both moves worked and the Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz, 108-94, to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 5 is Monday at Staples Center and the Lakers can eliminate Utah with a victory. Bryant scored 38 points on 16-for-24 shooting tonight, looking for his shot from the opening tip instead of looking for his teammates. He had only one assist. Jackson started Lamar Odom instead of Andrew Bynum, and Odom responded with 10 points and 15 rebounds. Bynum had only two points and one rebound in seven minutes. Look for Jackson to stick with the same rotation for Game 5. The Lakers will try to end the series Monday, avoiding a return to Utah, where they are only 3-10 in playoff games.
SALT LAKE CITY — Kobe Bryant made his first four shots and it was clear things would be different in the first half of Game 4 tonight. He finished the half with 24 points on 10-for-13 shooting, two nights after scoring only 18 points on 5-for-24 shooting in the Lakers’ loss to the Utah Jazz in Game 3. The Lakers shot 57.9 percent in the first half. Utah was led by Deron Williams with 17 points and seven assists and Carlos Boozer with 14 points and eight rebounds. Mehmet Okur returned to the Utah lineup after missing four games because of a strained right hamstring. He did not score in the half.
SALT LAKE CITY — Tex Winter, the 87-year-old special consultant to Lakers coach Phil Jackson, suffered an apparent stroke while attending a reunion of the Kansas State basketball team in Manhattan, Kan. He was taken to a hospital, Jackson told reporters after the Lakers’ shootaround today. Winter formerly coached at Kansas State. “I’ve been in touch with the family and they feel relatively at ease with the situation, as difficult as it could have been,” Jackson told reporters this morning. “I’m happy to say that, and they’ve basically said, ‘Take your mind off of this and put it where it belongs right now.'” Winter is the man who devised the triangle offense run by the Lakers. Winter and Jackson began their association with the Chicago Bulls, winning six NBA titles in the 1990s. Winter also coached at Long Beach State. Among his players: Craig Hodges, a Lakers assistant.
Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks was named the NBA’s sixth man of the year today, finishing ahead of JR Smith of the Denver Nuggets and Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks. Terry averaged 19.6 points in 33.6 minutes this season. In order to be eligible for the award, a player had to play more games as a reserve than a starter. No Lakers were in the running for the award. The Bench Mob hasn’t been as effective this season as last.
SALT LAKE CITY — Lakers coach Phil Jackson said today it’s possible Lamar Odom could start in place of Andrew Bynum for Game 4 on Saturday night. Odom has been exceptional so far in the series, but Bynum hasn’t had much of an impact because he’s been in foul trouble.
SALT LAKE CITY — Adam Morrison and Sasha Vujacic had a heated confrontation late in practice today. Morrison was upset that Vujacic was holding him during a 4-on-4 game. No punches were thrown, but the players were clearly unhappy with each other. Stuff like this goes on all the time during NBA practices, but it’s rare that it happens after reporters are allowed into the gym at the end of a workout. It’s also the main reason reporters aren’t allowed into the gym to watch until the end of practice. At any rate, none of the Lakers players or coaches seemed concerned that things would escalate between Morrison and Vujacic. Neither is known for his temper.
SALT LAKE CITY — There were more questions than answers after the Lakers’ 88-86 loss to the Utah Jazz in Game 3 tonight. First and foremost, can the Lakers possibly shoot worse than the 36.8 percent they shot tonight? And more to the point, can Kobe Bryant possibly shoot worse than the 5-for-24 he shot in Game 3?
But wait, there was more.
Will Lakers coach Phil Jackson move center Andrew Bynum to the bench in favor of Lamar Odom for Game 4 on Saturday? Bynum played a little more than seven minutes because of foul trouble and scored only four points and grabbed two rebounds. Odom led the Lakers with 21 points and 14 rebounds in a little more than 41 minutes.
Will the Lakers’ bench recapture their mojo? If you toss out Odom’s contributions, the so-called Bench Mob did little of note in Game 3. Shannon Brown and Sasha Vujacic scored three points apiece and Luke Walton added one point. Josh Powell did not score in limited minutes. Jordan Farmar and DJ Mbenga did not play.
What other adjustments can Jackson make in order to regain the momentum in the series? The Jazz proved once again that they are a far different team at home than on the road, displaying far more energy and emotion than in either game in L.A. Carlos Boozer proved to be a handful, scoring 23 points and taking 22 rebounds.
Stay tuned. All will be revealed in time.
SALT LAKE CITY — Wow, has this series changed. The Lakers, who couldn’t miss a shot in the first half of each of the first two games, suddenly can’t throw a pea in the Great Salt Lake. Kobe Bryant missed 9 of 10 shots in the first half. Pau Gasol missed 5 of 8. The Lakers shot 30.4 percent in the first half. The Jazz weren’t much better, shooting 39.5 percent. The Lakers’ bricklaying led to some big rebounding numbers for Utah’s Carlos Boozer, who had 16. Paul Millsap added 10. Lamar Odom had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers. Boozer led Utah with 13 points.
Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur will not play tonight in Game 3, sitting out for the third straight playoff game against the Lakers because of a strained right hamstring. “I don’t know yet. This is the worst part,” Okur said earlier today when asked if might be able to play in Game 4 on Saturday. “I can’t say a couple days, a couple hours, four days … ”
Jarron Collins will start in place of Okur. Utah coach Jerry Sloan told reporters this morning that he would shift Kyle Korver to the bench and start Andrei Kirilenko at small forward. Korver had seven points on 2-for-6 shooting in Game 1 and 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting in Game 2. Kirilenko had eight points in Game 1 and 10 in Game 2.
The Lakers will not travel to Hawaii for training camp next fall, but will work out instead at their El Segundo training facility for the second consecutive year. They will begin their exhibition schedule with a game Oct. 7 against the Golden State Warriors at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Here’s the complete exhibition schedule:
Oct. 7 vs. Golden State at the Honda Center, Anaheim, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 vs. Sacramento at Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 vs. Charlotte at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 18 vs. Clippers or Utah, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 20 vs. Golden State, Citizens Bank Arena, Ontario, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 vs. Denver, Honda Center, Anaheim, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 vs. Denver, San Diego Sports Arena, 7 p.m.
Tickets for all games except the two at Staples go on sale Monday at Ticketmaster outlets, including ticketmaster.com or by calling (800) 4-NBA-TIX. Tickets for the Oct. 17-18 games at Staples go on sale in October.