Kobe stays off practice floor to rest back, still a go for Game 5

LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant walked a bit gingerly as he emerged from the training area at Lakers headquarters to speak with reporters Tuesday, remaining on his feet since sitting is not a preferred option because of his sore lower back.

"Quite a bit [of pain], but it's a lot better than it was yesterday," Bryant said with a smile -- his mood clearly positive. "It'll be fine."

Bryant tweaked his back in the opening minutes of Sunday's 123-115 overtime loss at Utah that tied the Western Conference semifinals 2-2. Sore back and all, he had 33 points eight rebounds and 10 assists while playing 46 minutes.

Bryant said he'll definitely play Wednesday night in Game 5 at Staples Center, adding he would have given it a go had there been a game Tuesday night.

"I think the key is to know what you can and can't do," he said. "I kind of know what I can and can't do. I hope I can do what's necessary to help us win."

Bryant didn't practice Tuesday, spending his time in suburban El Segundo getting treatment and watching film. He said he hoped to participate in the shootaround Wednesday morning.

And he outlined a couple areas of inconvenience because of his back.

"Sleeping's tough," Bryant said. "This car ride home is going to be a beast, sitting in traffic. I'll stretch out when I get home."

Bryant made it clear he wouldn't be the one doing the driving.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he believes there's a possibility Bryant might not shoot that well, but added: "As long as he can play, we're satisfied. He'll do OK."

Jackson also said he wasn't feeling the pressure a deadlocked series might bring. Having coached nine NBA championship teams, he's been in this kind of situation many times before.

"We know we have homecourt advantage. We earned it," Jackson said. "We feel very confident in our building."

The Lakers have won the last six games between the teams in Los Angeles and have a 16-3 record against the Jazz at Staples Center since the arena opened before the 1999-2000 season.

"To win the series, we have to win on the road," Utah's Matt Harpring said before the Jazz flew to Los Angeles. "So we haven't gotten anywhere yet. The series is basically 0-0 and now it's the best two-out-of-three.

"They're capable of beating us at home," Harpring added. "We're not invincible. We know that."

Road victories have been extremely tough to come by for anyone in the second round of the playoffs. Home teams were 15-1 entering Tuesday night's action, with the one road win a 90-89 triumph by Detroit at Orlando last Saturday.

"That's incredible," Bryant said. "That's why homecourt advantage is so important, I guess."

Jackson said he believes the Lakers need to play a more physical game to be successful in this series.

"I personally am for the cut-slash game. I like speed," he said. "Our team is long, lanky, lean. You've got to beat the opponent to the punch. You've got to deliver the first blow. That's what I'm telling the guys."

Utah's Deron Williams, who had 29 points and 14 assists in Game 4, pointed to slow starts and bad first halves as the key to his team's 109-98 and 120-110 losses to the Lakers in the first two games of this series.

"This is a big game. It's a momentum game and it puts a lot of pressure on whoever doesn't win," Williams said. "You can always expect a couple guys to be the same at home and away. I think I have to be one of those guys. You've got to be maybe even more aggressive on the road and try to pick up some of the slack. That's what I'm trying to do."

While the Jazz were nearly unbeatable at home, going an NBA-best 37-4 during the regular season, they were just 17-24 on the road.

But Utah coach Jerry Sloan expressed confidence in his players, saying: "I think they can play against anybody. I told them that at the beginning of the season."

Williams, in his third NBA season, has made quite an impression on Bryant.

"I love him. He's one of my favorite players in the league," Bryant said, adding he's not one to throw praise around lightly. "I love his toughness, I love his skill."

Lakers reserve Ronny Turiaf, ejected early in the second quarter of Game 4 after committing a flagrant foul on Ronnie Price, looks forward to returning to the court.

"Just because I got ejected doesn't mean I'm going to do anything different," Turiaf said. "I went for the ball like I always do. It's unfortunate what happened. I apologized to Ronnie, he's one of my best friends in the league."

Game 6 will be played Friday night in Utah. A seventh game, if necessary, scheduled Monday night at Staples Center.

Lakers F Trevor Ariza, who hasn't played since breaking his right foot in practice Jan. 20, was cleared Tuesday to practice with no restrictions. "The bone is not completely healed, but it's healed as much as it's going to heal," team spokesman John Black said, adding the chances of Ariza breaking the same bone again are remote. Jackson said no timetable has been set on when Ariza might play in a game. "We'll just see what he can do. Vlade's not played well in the last two games," Jackson said, referring to Vladimir Radmanovic, the Lakers' starting small forward. "[Ariza] plays that position. We'll see if Vlade can't right his game here."