- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Phil Jackson wants a better sustained effort from the Lakers against the Utah Jazz. Not a repeat of the second half when Utah camped out at the free-throw line, scored inside and mucked up the flow.

Sure, the Lakers won Sunday’s series opener by 13 points, but they got outscored in the second half after leading by 22 at the break.

Jackson was so displeased with the final 24 minutes that he wrote a message afterward in the locker room: “15? Not like that.” He was referring to the team needing 15 more victories to win its first NBA championship since 2002.

“We’re not going to win 15 games if we play like that,” Jackson said Monday. “This is a time of the season where you look for improvement.”

The Jazz will be looking to end its 10-game losing skid at Staples Center in Game 2 Tuesday night. Utah coach Jerry Sloan questioned his team’s nastiness after their loss, and he was still prodding them Monday.

“You’ve got to get up and guard people,” he said. “This is the playoffs. It’s not the regular season. We’re playing, to some extent, like it’s a regular-season game. They’re too good a team to play that way.”

Carlos Boozer offered his interpretation of Sloan’s demand for nastiness.

“Our style is physical, in your face, scrappy, feisty, whatever you want to call it,” he said. “We’ve got to make them feel that all night long.”

Utah controlled the second half, outscoring the Lakers 60-51 although the Jazz never got closer than nine points twice.

“I didn’t like the way we carried ourselves at the end of the game and the start of the second half,” Jackson said. “There’s a tendency for this team when they do that to let up in the third quarter. I don’t like that. It’s about playing hard all the time and playing with purpose.”

The Jazz’s biggest impact came at the line, where Utah was 29-of-35, and the repeated trips slowed the game down.

“You give a team free throws, then all of a sudden it stops the momentum and the game becomes choppy and they sneak back into the game,” Kobe Bryant said. “From that point forward, it’s an uphill battle to try to regain momentum. They kept getting to nine, 10, but they never were able to break through that and that was good execution on our part.”

The Jazz scored 44 points in the paint Sunday despite the absence of center Mehmet Okur, who averages 17 points. He worked out on the sideline during Monday’s practice, but the Jazz said it would be a game-time decision whether he can play with a strained right hamstring.

“Mehmo does so much for our team,” Boozer said. “He spreads the floor out. Not many centers step out and shoot 3s and bring the opposing center out of the paint. We’re missing his offense. We’re missing his presence out there.”

The Jazz outrebounded the Lakers by eight, and held a 20-7 edge on the offensive boards, another stat that Jackson found irksome.

“We could be doing a lot better, but a lot of that is because (Deron) Williams takes so much of an effort from our big guys,” he said. “They’re trying to stay in front of him because it’s hard for our guards to stop that drive then it’s leaving (Paul) Millsap and Boozer and other guys open opportunities to rebound the ball.”

The Jazz’s road struggles this season were well documented, but Utah is 28-81 away from home in franchise playoff games.

“If we steal one tomorrow then the series is back in our favor, but no matter what, they’ve still got to come to Salt Lake,” Boozer said.

Williams had 16 points and a career playoff-high 17 assists while playing 45 minutes in the opener, and he’s ready to go the full 48 Tuesday if need be.

“It just all depends on how the game is going. If we’re down 20 points at halftime, then I’m probably going to play most of the game,” he said. “If we’re hanging in there, Brev’s (Brevin Knight) playing good and the second group is clicking, then he can probably afford to leave me out a little longer.”

For his part, Bryant relishes the Jazz’s physical style.

“It’s the same old Utah, they’re just going to keep coming at you,” he said. “It’s East Coast-style basketball.”

Jackson’s teams have never lost a playoff series after winning Game 1, going 41-for-41 with Chicago and the Lakers.

“We just don’t want to be the team that (messes) it up,” Bryant said.

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