The Utah Jazz had two chances in the final four seconds to get back into their conference semi-final series with the Los Angeles Lakers. Both shots failed by the narrowest of margins, and now the Jazz are on the verge of another play-off dismissal by their tormentors from Los Angeles. Deron Williams's open three-point attempt from the top of the key hit the rim and Wesley Matthews's tip just before the buzzer rolled agonizingly off the rim as the Jazz were defeated 111-110, giving the defending champions a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference play-off series.
No team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a play-off series. Game 4 is tonight in Salt Lake City. After winning the first two games by dominating inside, the Lakers went outside in Game 3, notching 13 three-pointers. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher hit back-to-back three-pointers during an 8-2 run in the final minute, outlasting the Jazz in a frenzied fourth quarter, which included 12 lead changes before Utah's final attempt bounced off the rim in the final second.
"It was fun basketball to watch, I'm sure," said Bryant, who scored 35 to lead the Lakers. "Guys just coming down making big shot after big shot, and big play after big play. It was certainly fun to be a part of." The Lakers never led by more than four, but stayed close enough to win it in the final minute. "It's a tough loss, period," said Williams. "We were again in the game and had a chance to win the game and things aren't going our way.
Williams, had 28 points and nine assists and Kyle Korver, had a career play-off-high 23 points for the Jazz, which usually holds a strong home-court advantage. Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom used their size advantage to lead the Lakers to victory in the first two games, but the Jazz were able to control more of the lane on Saturday. Bynum did not score at all and Odom finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
Jerry Sloan, the Utah coach, said the Jazz's effort to keep the Lakers out of the middle opened up some three-point shots and Los Angeles capitalized. "We felt like that was the chance to stay in the ballgame," Sloan said. "That right there probably got us." "It's all about momentum," Bryant said. "We had been given good opportunities. It was just a matter of them falling, and the shots starting falling at the right time."
Fisher "played a great game tonight", said Phil Jackson, the Lakers coach. "He made some shots and made some defensive plays. Just his tenacity is a factor for us." This is the third consecutive season the Lakers have faced the Jazz in the play-offs, and Los Angeles had lost Game 3 in Utah each of the previous two. * AP