LOS ANGELES (AP) - A day off and two days of practice since their previous game did the aging Los Angeles Lakers some good.
Feeling refreshed, they led all the way in defeating Utah 120-91 Tuesday night behind 21 points in three quarters from Kobe Bryant while handing the Jazz their season-worst fifth straight loss.
``Just worked hard the last couple days and we came out really focused on defense,' Bryant said.
Pau Gasol added 20 points, Andrew Bynum had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Lamar Odom scored 17 off the bench for the Lakers, who won their seventh in a row at home.
``We focus in on defense game-to-game,' Odom said. ``We focused on doing the small things the right way. It makes all the difference, not just tonight but in practice. That's where you get better and it's starting to show a little.'
Deron Williams scored 17 points and C.J. Miles added 14 for Utah, which has lost its last nine against the Lakers at Staples Center. The Jazz went 0-5 on their road trip, including losses to four teams from the East.
``We've lacked chemistry and continuity on offense and on defense and we're not trusting each other,' Williams said. ``We thought we'd come out and put together a better effort, but we didn't. We couldn't execute and we couldn't get stops against teams with the worst records in the NBA, and coming in to play one of the better teams in the league, it got ugly.'
The Lakers had the game in hand after the first quarter, when they shot 72 percent from the floor, hit all three of their 3-pointers and went 8 of 10 on free throws while building a 17-point lead.
``We came out with a lot of energy and I think we caught a team off-guard,' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Los Angeles stretched its lead to 28 points in the second quarter, leading 66-38 at the break largely on the efforts of its bench. Odom, Steve Blake, Shannon Brown and Luke Walton played most of the minutes, while Bryant, Gasol, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher got some much-needed rest.
The Jazz shot 14 of 43 in the first half, when the Lakers had more rebounds, assists, steals and fewer turnovers.
``I think we lost our swagger somewhere along the line,' Raja Bell said. ``You start pressing and start trying to do everything so right that it backfires, and that's a tough way to play.'
The Lakers' lead reached 33 points in the third, with Bryant hitting two free throws to make it 88-55 before leaving the game for good. The Jazz got no closer than 27 in the period.
``It was one of those nights we couldn't get anything going,' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. ``They shot the ball well, they passed the ball, they were just much more alive than we were.'
Joining Bryant on the bench in the fourth to chat and watch both the game and the crowd were Artest, Bynum and Fisher.
Odom provided the final quarter's highlight, tossing up a high-arcing jumper with a sideways glance before sailing out of bounds and into the crowd while getting fouled. Bryant got on his feet to applaud.
``That's just fun,' Odom said. ``It was good to get the crowd on their feet.'
Brown drew an even louder reaction when he careened in for a fast-break dunk only to miss. No matter, though, the Lakers were up by 38 and he just smiled.
``I found it funny,' Bryant said. ``He was so high up. When you're on top of a building and you're throwing a pebble down on the street sometimes you miss the target.'
Notes: The Lakers notched their NBA-leading eighth wire-to-wire win of the season, one more than last season. ... Bryant needs 13 points to pass Hakeem Olajuwon for eighth on the NBA's career scoring list. His next chance comes at home Friday against Sacramento. ... Los Angeles evened the season series 1-1, having lost at Utah on Nov. 26. ... The Jazz are 3-19 against the Lakers at Staples Center since the building opened in 1999.
The Associated Press News Service
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