LOS ANGELES, May 3- Kobe Bryant scored 13 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter and the Los Angeles Lakers defeated Utah 104-99 in Sunday's opener of their NBA second round Western Conference playoff series.Spanish star Pau Gasol added 25 points and 12 rebounds and together with Brynat sparked a 15-6 run by the Lakers over the final 3:16 to bring the Lakers a victory in the best-of-seven matchup, which continues Tuesday at Los Angeles.
Gasol’s 3-point play midway into the fourth quarter evened the game at 85-85 and snapped an 0-for-10 shooting start to the period for the Lakers.
Bryant made a baseline jumper while being fouled and hit a free throw to complete the 3-point play and give the Lakers a 94-93 lead with 3:16 to play.
"It was tough," Kobe Bryant said. "But when it got really tough for me, I just checked myself in."
Bryant added a jumper with 80 seconds remaining and after Deron Williams answered with two free throws for Utah, Laker forward Lamar Odom rebounded a Bryant miss and scored to put the Lakers on top 98-95.
After a Jazz turnover, a driving lyup by Bryant with 22 seconds remaining gave the Lakers a 100-95 edge. Bryant answered a Carlos Boozer basket with two free throws in the dying seconds and Gasol added two more late to seal victory.
The Lakers hit 14 of their first 16 shots from the field, capping the spurt by making nine in a row, for a 28-17 lead. Bryant was 5-for-5 in the run, which helped the Lakers lead 30-23 after a first quarter in which they hit 79 percent of their shots.
Utah’s Deron Williams scored 17 points in the first half but Gasol and Bryant each had 12 to give the Lakers a 53-45 half-time edge.
The Jazz, who trailed by as much as 14, had a 13-4 run to pull within 63-60, but the Lakers stretched the lead back to 81-73 entering the fourth quarter.
Utah answered with an 12-1 run to start the fourth quarter, the Jazz reserves taking advantage of the Laker bench to give Utah a lead for the first time since 10-8, setting up the closing fireworks.
"It is kind of repetitive," said Williams, who didn’t appear slowed by an injured elbow. "We had a chance to win this game, but we couldn’t make the plays down the stretch. Kobe made some unbelievable shots, and that was pretty much it."
Despite the victory, Gasol said the Lakers would have preferred less drama at the end.
"We want to make sure we work and we put more effort into keeping leads and building on leads and stretching the games out," Gasol said. "It’s always a little bit frustrating when you lose leads and you’re on the bench and you can’t do anything.
"It happens hopefully not very often, but we got stagnant. Guys weren’t sharp out there."