“It’s very important. I love Utah, but I’d rather not see it again until next year,” Bryant said Sunday at the team’s suburban practice gym. “We’ve got to be ready.”
The Lakers took a 3-1 lead by overwhelming the Jazz 108-94 on Saturday night in Salt Lake City. Bryant scored the Lakers’ first 11 points and finished with 38. Two nights earlier he was an unsightly 5-for-24 as the Lakers blew a 13-point lead in the third quarter and lost 88-86.
Although the Lakers trailed after the first quarter on Saturday night, they stunned the Jazz with 40 points in the second quarter, then held Utah to just 16 points in the third.
Pau Gasol said the Lakers need to play with that mentality the whole game Monday night.
“You come out really aggressive, don’t give them any life, any hope,” Gasol said. “Really start hard, set the tone early. Control the game. Make the game yours. That’s what we’re going to try to do. We’re going to try to close the series and move on.”
Utah’s Deron Williams knows what will be waiting for the Jazz at Staples Center on Monday night, when the Lakers will be trying to earn several days of rest.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “They’re going to try to come out and blow us away early. We’ve just got to show some heart and some toughness and come out and give ourselves a shot to win the basketball game.”
Carlos Boozer said Utah will have to play like it did in Game 3, when it let the Lakers jump to a 13-point lead in the third quarter, then rallied as the Lakers went cold.
“We came out and attacked them defensively,” Boozer said. “It’s a tall task. They’re a very good home team.
“I believe that if we—1 through 15—come with it defensively and share the ball offensively like we usually do, we’ll have a chance to win the game. We just have to come with the mentality that we have nothing to lose. It’s all or nothing.”
Then again, if Bryant is as determined as he was on Saturday night, the Jazz could be in trouble.
“You could see it in his eyes with the way he came out,” Williams said. “He didn’t say anything to anybody. He didn’t shake anybody’s hands. You just knew he was ready.”
Bryant, who shot 16-for-24 in Game 4, said he knew he had to be more aggressive “right after Game 3. I felt like I needed to get going a little bit and put teams on their heels a little bit more.”
Bryant said he changed his game a little by getting closer to the basket.
“I was operating in a space where it was harder for them to double-team me. I wasn’t 30 feet from the basket. I was getting good screens, getting the ball in the deep post position and operating from there.
“I’m going to continue to be aggressive,” he said. “If they trap and double-team, then I’ll give my guys the ball that way.”
Bryant said there will be a different energy on Monday night “because you’re close to closing out a very tough series.”
The big win Saturday night “gives us confidence because we see what we’re capable of doing in beating Utah by, like 15 points, when we were up 20 for a big part of the game,” Gasol said. “We know the potential of this team. Everybody, I think, knows. They might question us sometimes, but that’s OK. We know what we’re here for. We’re just trying to move on and get close to our goal.”
The Jazz will be trying to force the series to a Game 6 on Thursday night in Salt Lake City.
“The series is not over,” Williams said. “We’ve still got a little hope. We know it’s going to be tough to win three in a row against these guys, but we should be playing free and loose because nobody expects us to win.”
AP Sports Writer Doug Alden in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.