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Sweep lets them enjoy a clean break

Times Staff Writer

Round one went quickly, in a good way for the Lakers, not like the agonizingly hasty first-round exit last season.

A year ago today, the Lakers trailed Phoenix, 3-1, on the way to a docile five-game ouster and an off-season of discord, all of which are fading memories as the Lakers get to rest and scoreboard watch for a while longer.

They’ll keep a low profile until the Utah-Houston series ends, which will be either Friday in Utah or Sunday in Houston. The Jazz leads the series, 3-2.

If Monday was defined by a flurry of fiery plays in the fourth quarter, Tuesday was the opposite, a day of relaxation in which the Lakers did as they pleased.

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No practice, no game videos to study, just time to reflect.

“It’s been a fun series, but you can’t really enjoy it until it’s over,” said forward Luke Walton, who was a spark in all four games against Denver. “So now, we took care of business, we can relax a little bit for a day or two and just really look back and enjoy what we just did.”

The Lakers will congregate today at their training facility in El Segundo, although it might be only a light workout.

Until an opponent is decided, they can ruminate on being the first team to sweep a best-of-seven series from the Nuggets in their 32-year NBA existence.

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Along those lines, Kobe Bryant’s 134 points were the most against Denver in four playoff games, easily topping the 112 scored by Kiki Vandeweghe for Portland in 1986.

Bryant scored 14 points in the last 5:31 of Game 4, a pace that projects out to 121.8 points in 48 minutes, as preposterous as that sounds.

Not that the Lakers minded.

“It’s always so comforting knowing you have the best closer in basketball,” Walton said. “They were making huge plays down the stretch, but Kobe came right back to do whatever it took.”

Up next will be the physical Jazz or the on-a-mission Rockets, who are trying to prove almost too many things to list (they can win without Yao Ming, they can win in the playoffs with Tracy McGrady, their 22-game winning streak was not a fluke, etc.).

The Lakers went 3-1 against Utah and 1-2 against Houston during the regular season, although they have been diplomatic when asked which team they want to play.

“One team is well-coached, has got Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer. They are deep. It’s tough to play there,” Lamar Odom said “Then you’ve got a team that won 22 in a row during the season. Both teams are highly qualified, great coaches. We don’t care at this point.”

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Almost forgotten among the Lakers’ frenetic Game 4 finish was Pau Gasol’s first experience on a winning team in a playoff series.

It pretty much ends all those questions about being 0-12 in career playoff games with Memphis.

“It feels great,” he said. “There’s definitely a big difference between getting swept and sweeping.”

Gasol, in his seventh season, averaged 22.3 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the first round.

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Coby Karl and George Karl embraced on the court after Game 4, a fitting end to the first father-son matchup in NBA playoff history.

The Nuggets’ coach appeared to be moved when talking about it afterward.

“It was kind of a bittersweet moment right after the loss -- there’s your son and you get to hug him. His team’s going on and your team’s going home, but there he is in the NBA,” George Karl said, before pausing for several seconds.

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“I’m sure we’ll have some happier talks in the next few days. I’ll get to spend some time talking game plans with him and strategy with him. Coby playing in the NBA is the best gift that’s ever happened to me in my life.”

He then added with a smile, “Hopefully I’ll make him feel miserable one day.”

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Phil Jackson finished fifth in the voting for coach of the year, which was won by Byron Scott of New Orleans.

Times staff writer Jonathan Abrams contributed to this report.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com


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