Jazz-Lakers Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers were sad to see a well-liked teammate traded, but kept on winning nonetheless.

The Lakers will go for their season-high sixth straight victory Sunday when they host the Utah Jazz, who will be without leading scorer Al Jefferson for a second consecutive game.

Playing its first game since trading veteran guard Derek Fisher to Houston on Thursday, Los Angeles (28-16) defeated Minnesota 97-92 on Friday for its fifth consecutive win overall and 10th in a row at home.

Kobe Bryant scored 28 points, going 5 of 8 from 3-point range, while Andrew Bynum added 15 points and 14 rebounds and Pau Gasol, who remained with the team after months of trade rumors, finished with 17 points and 11 boards.

"It was a big load off my shoulders" to pass the trade deadline, Gasol said. "It was exhausting to have to deal with for two, three months pretty much on a daily basis."

Steve Blake took over Fisher's point guard role Friday with underwhelming results, going scoreless with six assists in 28 minutes. Newly-acquired Ramon Sessions performed better. The former Cleveland Cavalier had seven points, five assists and four rebounds in 20 minutes during his Lakers debut.

"You can see his quickness," coach Mike Brown said of Sessions. "He's got a second, third and probably even a fourth gear, where he got out and got to the rim and kind of beat everybody down the floor. ... So it was good to see."

Despite Sessions' promising play, Brown said Saturday that Blake will remain the starter for the time being.

Los Angeles will look to take advantage of a short-handed Utah team Sunday.

The Jazz (22-22) will again be without Jefferson, who has left the team for the weekend to attend his grandmother's funeral in Mississippi.

They didn't need him Saturday in a 99-92 overtime win at home over Golden State. Derrick Favors, starting in Jefferson's place, finished with career highs of 23 points and 17 rebounds. Paul Millsap added 13 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.

Favors scored four of the first six points in overtime.

"Coach (Ty Corbin) trusted me enough at the end of the game to keep me in, so I couldn't let him down,'' Favors said.

Utah has won three of four - including the last two games in overtime - and is trying to win three in a row for the first time since Jan. 14-17. The Jazz are currently ninth in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games behind Houston for the eighth and final playoff spot.

However, Utah has lost three straight on the road to fall to 5-16 there on the season.

This is the fourth and final meeting of the regular season between the Jazz and Lakers. Los Angeles won the first two, including a 90-87 overtime victory at Utah on Jan. 11 in which Bryant scored 40 points. The Jazz won the last meeting, also at home, 96-87 on Feb. 4.

Utah has lost 10 of its last 11 games against the Lakers at Staples Center.

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