SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—Kobe Bryant’s throat was sore and his back was tight. Good thing he was able to score most of his points standings still.
After losing six straight, the Lakers have won three in a row and again got help from somebody other than Bryant, who missed the shootaround and said he spent most of the day sick in bed.
“We’re getting there,” Bryant said.
“We’re starting to find some consistency in our offense and getting other people involved,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Bryant said his back tightened up throughout the game after spending most of the day in bed. His free throws appeared just fine, though, going 21-for-24, just two away from tying his own team record for foul shots made. He was 7-for-21 from the floor, but four of his field goals came in the fourth quarter as Bryant led the Lakers with 11 points.
“He forced us to help in a lot of situations and Smush Parker was able to get a lot of open looks at the basket,” said former Lakers guard Derek Fisher, who led the Jazz with 23 points and eight assists. “Defensively they are a tough team to match up against.”
Parker finished 6-for-8 on 3-pointers and Odom even stepped out for a 3-pointer for the Lakers.
The Jazz were playing without guard Deron Williams, who missed his second game since the All-Star break with a strained groin.
All-Star Mehmet Okur returned for Utah after missing two games with back spasms, but he had two points through three quarters and finished with nine. Okur was 1-for-4 on 3-pointers.
Matt Harpring added 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists and Carlos Boozer finished with 13 points and nine rebounds for Utah, which was trying to take the season series from the Lakers for the second time in three years.
Utah rallied after falling behind by 14 in the first half, but couldn’t come back again when the Lakers went on a run late in the fourth quarter.
“We were stagnant. We stopped running our plays,” Harpring said. “We just got bogged down and we didn’t make open shots.”
After Okur tied it at 82 on two free throws, Parker put the Lakers ahead for good with a 3-pointer that started the 12-2 run. Bryant punctuated it with a dunk off a miss by Evans to put the Lakers ahead 94-84 with 1:46 remaining.
Fisher kept the Jazz alive with a four-point play, then a 3-pointer to cut it to 96-94 with 20 seconds left, but Utah had to foul and sent Bryant to the line again. Bryant made both, then Evans and Odom made two apiece to finish it.
Notes:@ The Jazz were 18-for-26 from the line. … Bryant also scored 52 in a 132-102 win over the Jazz on Nov. 30. … Parker made his first five shots. … The Jazz were 6-for-14 from 3-point range. … Even without Williams, the Jazz finished with 24 assists to the Lakers’ 16.