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Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom

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LOS ANGELES - Perhaps it was just the knowledge that the Los Angeles Lakers weren't going to let that big lead slip completely away in Game 5 against the Utah Jazz.Maybe it was just a natural reaction to the final realization that L.A.

was going to advance one round closer to its ultimate goal of winning an NBA title.Or it could have just been a really good dunk.Whatever the reason, Lamar Odom chose to celebrate his game-clinching slam with 11.5 seconds left with some of the same fans who have been alternately dazzled and dismayed with his five-year tenure in L.A.

While the other nine players on the floor waited for him to take his free throw, Odom was busy high-fiving the fans in the expensive seats."It felt good," Odom said of the burst of emotion.

"It was fun."The now de rigeur relinquishing of a double-digit lead notwithstanding, Game 5 certainly seemed like fun, particularly for Odom, who had 26 points and 15 rebounds in the Lakers' series-clinching 107-96 win.The player who was deemed too soft during last season's NBA Finals loss to Boston looked plenty hard against the Jazz; in addition to those 15 boards, Odom also had three blocked shots.

And when he wasn't banging Carlos Boozer into a 3-of-8 night, he was running out at Mehmet Okur and harassing him into missing seven of his nine shots.He was equally versatile on the offensive end, making two of his four 3-point shots, tossing in a left-handed hook shot or two and gliding to the basket with the sort of grace rarely seen in a 6-foot-10 power forward.2009 NBA playoffsMonday's gamesHawks 81, Heat 71 (Tied 2-2) Nuggets 121, Hornets 63 (Nuggets 3-1)Lakers 107, Jazz 96 (Lakers win 4-1)Sunday's gamesBulls 121, Celtics 118 (2OT) (Tied 2-2)Cavaliers 99, Pistons 78 (Cavs win 4-0)Magic 84, 76ers 81 (Tied 2-2)Rockets 89, Blazers 88 (Rockets 3-1) analysisPlayoff results, schedule2009 NBA Playoff CentralBehrendt: Odom key to Lakers' winRosenberg: Billups over AI for HallRosen: Rondo not quite elite PGRosen: Jazz good; Lakers greatHench: 5 stars for future FinalsVideoMonday's playoff highlightsPhotosMonday's action's-grown-from-last-year's-playoffs
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