LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant made most of the shots that mattered, which he didn't view as any great accomplishment.
That's because there was nary a hand in his face when he took them.
Bryant converted six of his franchise playoff-record 21 foul shots in the fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Lakers held off the Utah Jazz 109-98 Sunday to begin the second round of the playoffs.
Bryant finished with 38 points, six rebounds and seven assists, and the Lakers made it five consecutive victories to begin the postseason after winning eight of their last nine regular-season games to earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
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"You've got to be able to knock those free throws down. They're open looks," said Bryant, who made his first 18 foul shots before missing two of his last five to finish 21 for 23. "It's my responsibility to knock them down."
The Lakers shot 38 for 46 from the foul line, and the Jazz went 22 for 30. The teams spent most of the final period going from one foul line to the other with Los Angeles going 14 for 19 and Utah 10 for 12. Twenty-four of the 60 personal fouls were called in the last 12 minutes.
"It's an incredible night to have 23 foul shots," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I know that Utah's not going to be happy about it. We'll probably see about half that in the next game, if not less."
Utah coach Jerry Sloan said he didn't have a problem with Bryant's many trips to the foul line.
"They called them, he shot them, that's fine," Sloan said. "I can't do anything about that."
Regarding his team's defense, Sloan said: "It was very, very poor at best. (Fouls) are what you do when you try and bail out. I'd say that's very poor defense."
There were other unexpected numbers. For one, the Jazz outrebounded the Lakers 58-41, including 25 at the offensive end. For another, Utah attempted 95 shots to match its regular-season high but converted only 36 (37.9 percent).
"A lot of it was just their defense," said Deron Williams, who shot 5 for 18. "They pushed us outside farther than we wanted to go with our offense."
Game 2 will be Wednesday night before the best-of-seven series shifts to Utah for games 3 and 4. Word leaked late Friday that Bryant won his first Most Valuable Player award, and he expressed his joy Saturday. The NBA declined comment.
The Lakers went ahead for good late in the first quarter and led 68-49 early in the third period before the Jazz outscored them 15-3 to get back in the game. It was 91-82 before a 3-pointer by Kyle Korver and a jumper by Ronnie Brewer made it 91-87 with 4:44 remaining.
CELTICS 99, HAWKS 65, at Boston -- Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Paul Pierce scored 22 points, and Boston turned back pesky Atlanta with a victory in game 7 of their playoff series, earning a second-round matchup with LeBron James and Cleveland.
Rajon Rondo, who missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the game 6 loss that forced the series back to Boston, had 10 points and six assists, taking his lumps during the game's pivotal play.
Kendrick Perkins had 10 points and 10 rebounds before joining the rest of the starters on the bench in the formality of a fourth quarter, just as they did for much of the regular season.
The skirmishes of the first six games boiled over with 9:09 left in the third quarter with Boston already leading 51-28, when Rondo got the ball on a breakaway and had only Marvin Williams to beat.
The Hawks forward put an arm across his chest and took Rondo to the floor, where he lay for a few minutes while Celtics coaches and teammates checked on him. The officials immediately signaled a Flagrant 2 foul and, after reviewing the play, threw Williams out of the game.
"I saw it on TV and it did look pretty bad, so I can't argue that at all. I just want Rondo to know that I would never try to hurt him," said Williams, who called Rondo a friend since high school. "He knows the type of person I am. It was a physical series, but I have no bad blood with Rondo."
Boston coach Doc Rivers also vouched for Williams.
"Two good kids playing hard," he said.
MAVS DON'T HAVE COACH YET -- Although Rick Carlisle has emerged as the leading candidate to coach the Mavericks, nothing is done yet. "Things are going in a positive direction, but it's not going to be a quick deal," Donnie Nelson, the team's president of basketball operations, said. "We've just got to be patient."