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No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 8 Utah Jazz

SHARE No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 8 Utah Jazz

The season series: Lakers won, 2-1

The stars: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is coming off another MVP-like season. He averaged 26.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists. Jazz point guard Deron Williams, meanwhile, led the team in both scoring (19.4 ppg) and assists (10.7 apg).

The telling stat: Lakers point guard Derek Fisher has never lost a first-round playoff series in his career (10-0). That includes a 2007 win with the Jazz over the Rockets.

The scoop: Winning 48 games for many NBA teams would be quite an accomplishment. For the Jazz this season, it's a disappointment.

Utah struggled down the stretch when the No. 2 seed in the West was still within reach, falling all the way to the No. 8 spot. The Jazz were particularly bad in the second games of back-to-back sets this year, going 3-18.

The good news for Utah is that none of the games in the playoffs are back-to-back.

Still, as many as four of the games will be in the Staples Center, and the Jazz have been a horrible road team this year, especially against winning teams.

Williams is a fine young player, but he will need big help from Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko if Utah is to even have a chance to take the Lakers to six games like they did a year ago in the second round.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, is as healthy as it's been all season long. Center Andrew Bynum is back and Pau Gasol (18.9 ppg, 9.6 rpg) is putting up big numbers, making sure the Lakers are not a one-man, Kobe show.

Utah almost always plays well in its first home game in any playoff series, so a Game 3 victory is likely. Still, the Lakers are just too good for Jazz fans to realistically expect a series upset.

The prediction: Lakers in 5

Western Conf. first round

Sunday, at L.A. Lakers, 1 p.m.

Tuesday, at L.A. Lakers, 8:30 p.m.

Thursday, at Utah, 8:30 p.m.

April 25, at Utah, 7 p.m.

April 27, at L.A. Lakers, TBA*

April 30, at Utah, TBA*

May 2, at L.A. Lakers, TBA*

*if necessary

E-mail: lojo@desnews.com