Lakers End Regular Season With Win Over Jazz

The jockeying for playoff positioning in the Western Conference is going to continue through Wednesday night, which is the last of the NBA's regular season. But one first round playoff matchup is now set in stone, thanks to the Lakers' 125-112 win over the Jazz: L.A. will face this same Utah team at home this weekend in the first round of the playoffs.

The Lakers had nothing to play for with the West's top seed having been secured a while ago, but as promised, Phil Jackson didn't rest any of his starters, and gave all his players plenty of minutes. According to Phil, his guys needed the exercise, since their next game is likely not going to be played until Sunday.

L.A. was challenged well into the third quarter by a Jazz team that was playing without two of its starters. Mehmet Okur and C.J. Miles both sat this one out, but are expected to be ready to go in time for the playoffs.

The Jazz had tied the Lakers at 68 a little more than halfway through the third, before the Lakers put their collective foot on the accelerator. L.A. responded with a run that got them up by nine on a three-pointer from Shannon Brown, and then blew the game open with a 13-2 stretch to start the fourth quarter -- one that put them up 19 after consecutive threes from Kobe Bryant and Sasha Vujacic.

Andrew Bynum looked sharp in just his fourth game back from injury, and led the Lakers with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting, while playing a solid 30 minutes.

The once formidable Jazz no longer worry the Lakers, but the players and coaches are well aware that any time the play them -- especially in the playoffs -- they're going to be in for an extremely physical night.

"Their style of play, you could call it 'confrontational,' Lamar Odom said afterwards. "They're tough games over in Utah. I guess that's what we're looking forward to. We've got to prepare ourselves to play well on the road, take care of the ball and play physical."

The Jazz might play physical, but they aren't holding out much hope for an upset in the playoffs. At least not if you believe their well-tenured and Hall of Fame coach, Jerry Sloan.

"We didn't give them much of a battle and knowing that we're going to have to play them again, it looks pretty bleak," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "Hate to say that, but it's one of those things."

Utah is one of the toughest places to play in the league, and any game on their home court is going to be a physical, hard fought battle. This Lakers team, however, appears to be more than up for the challenge.

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