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NBA PLAYOFFS / SECOND ROUND

Back To The Salt Mine

Lakers have a chance to end the series, but it won't be easy in the unfriendly confines. Bryant's back seems OK, Jackson says.

May 16, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

Pass the earplugs. The headache reliever too.

The Lakers are back in Utah, which means a little elevation (4,327 feet), a little intrigue (a 3-2 series) and a lot of noise (no explanation necessary).

Utah's home record, already pounded into the Lakers' minds much like the clatter of the Jazz crowd, was 37-4 during the regular season, 4-1 in the playoffs, and, in the last week, 2-0 against the Lakers.

Naturally, Utah's home prowess carried the day going into Game 6 tonight.

The Lakers came up with a final push to hold off the Jazz in Game 5 and now have a chance to move on to the Western Conference finals.

You probably won't be able to hear a pin drop as Utah faces an elimination game at home.

"I think it's over the safety limits, isn't it?" Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said of the din at EnergySolutions Arena. "When I went to sleep my ears were still ringing after the ballgame in Utah. They have pyrotechnics on the floor, they were doing all kinds of stuff. They really pumped the crowd up, and it's very close quarters for a large crowd like that. There's a lot of intensity there."

Jackson brought up other points of interest, namely that the Lakers needed to slow down on offense to cut down on turnovers and would have to play "10 points better" than in their 111-104 Game 5 victory if they wanted to win tonight.

Jackson was also the main source of information on Kobe Bryant's lower back spasms, which forced Bryant into a playmaking role in the fourth quarter of Game 5. Bryant did not speak to reporters after Thursday's practice.

"He seems to be OK," Jackson said. "I think his back stiffened up a little bit in the fourth quarter, but he's all right today."

Bryant, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom were all given a day off from practice.

Bryant had 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds in 41 minutes Wednesday. Utah players thought he looked a little too healthy for their tastes.

"He was very effective," guard Ronnie Brewer said. "He didn't take a high number of shots [10, officially]. He got his teammates involved. He was being aggressive attacking the basket. Once he's doing that, he's very tough to guard."

Did it look as if his back affected him?

"No," Brewer said. "He scored 26 points. He hasn't been getting a lot of dunks in this series anyway, but he was still aggressive to the basket, finishing and knocking down jumpers."

It's now up to the Lakers to show they can win on the road, a seemingly impossible task for every team in the NBA semifinals. Home teams are 20-1 in this round.

The Lakers forced overtime after a late rally in Game 4 in Utah but were outscored in the extra session, 15-7.

"We figure we came back from a 10-point [deficit] in two or three minutes and then played a horrible overtime," Odom said. "I think if we execute and stay focused throughout the game, don't let those guys get out to a 10-point lead, 12-point lead, hopefully we should be just fine."

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Odom had three dunks in the fourth quarter of Game 5, helping fill the scoring void after Bryant's back flared up

"Every game right now, I'm thinking I need three or four dunks," Odom said. "And it seems like when you dunk the ball, you get those foul calls. That's something we focused on as a team. We want to take it to the hole as much as possible, especially Pau and myself."

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Jordan Farmar perked up for the first time this series, scoring six points in Game 5, including a fourth-quarter drive in which he converted a three-point play after being fouled by Deron Williams.

"I was a little upset that I got beat on the other end [after] he got straight to the basket, so I just wanted to be aggressive and make something good happen, and it worked out for me," Farmar said.

Farmar totaled four points in the first four games.

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Times staff writer Jonathan Abrams contributed to this report.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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