Carlos Boozer, centre, fights off the attention
of the Lakers' defence [AFP]
 
Carlos Boozer broke out of his slump with 27 points to lead the Utah Jazz over the Los Angeles Lakers 104-99, cutting the Lakers lead in the National basketball Association's Western Conference semifinal series to 2-1.

Boozer also tied his career playoff-high with 20 rebounds as the Lakers suffered their first loss in this post-season.

Game 4 is Sunday at Utah.

The win extended the dominance of home teams in the four conference semifinal series to 11-0.

Utah atoned for two miserable performances in Los Angeles by taking the lead early in the second quarter and hanging on to it the rest of the way.

The Lakers got within three points with 3:22 to play but never caught the Jazz.

"We competed very hard, much better than we did over there. That's what happens with a young team,'' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.

"We made mistakes but we kept playing hard. Before, we made mistakes and we felt sorry for ourselves. Tonight we kept playing hard.''

Utah's offence was stagnant in the first two games, but on Friday the Jazz started hitting from the outside and moving the ball around enough to clear the inside for the layups their offense is designed to create.

Utah went 39-for-78 from the field and overcame Los Angeles' advantage from the foul line.

The Jazz took nine fewer free throws than the Lakers, but went 20-for-28 from the line and held off the late push by the Lakers.

Los Angeles went on a 6-0 run to get within 95-92, then Boozer went to work.

He hit a hook shot in the lane to put Utah up 97-92, then Kobe Bryant lost the ball while falling and didn't get the foul call he wanted.

The Jazz used 23 of the 24 seconds they had on the shot clock and Boozer made a shot.

After Bryant missed a 3-point attempt, the Jazz got the rebound and went to Boozer again for a 101-92 lead with 1:57 left.

Utah forced 18 turnovers and outscored the Lakers 48-36 in the paint.

Boozer's 27 points were two more than he scored in the first two games combined.

"I tried to stop thinking so much out there. My teammates were waiting for a big game out of me and I was too. ... I had to play thought-free and just react and play," he said.