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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer chat during Utah's Game 3 win over the Lakers. The Jazz are in a familiar position heading into this afternoon's Game 4.

Down 0-2 to the West's No. 1 seed, and the team many favor to win it all, they rally to win Game 3 and make it a series.

Or at least some semblance of one.

It's familiar territory for the Jazz.

It was just last year, in fact — in the Western Conference finals against the eventual NBA-champion San Antonio Spurs — that Utah was in the very position it is now in the 2008 Western semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

And we all know how that Game 4 went.

Fourth-quarter follies. Twenty-five free throws for the Spurs in that final period, four technical fouls on the Jazz courtesy of Steve Javie and crew. Utah falls by 12, then travels to San Antonio for an embarrassing Game 5 loss.

Series over.

For today's ABC-televised Game 4 against the Lakers, truth be told, the feeling is not all that dissimilar.

After winning 104-99 on Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena, the Jazz again are down 2-1 in a best-of-seven series against one of the NBA's elite.

Yet they're holding onto hope.

"We felt we could win Game 4 last year," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said Saturday. "It just didn't happen the way we wanted it to."

If there is anything different about this afternoon, it may be that the Jazz do not seem to be nearly as mesmerized by Kobe Bryant and Co. as they were by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

"I don't think we're in awe of anybody," Williams said. "Maybe when Kobe throws it off the backboard to himself."

That incredible Game 3 play by Bryant aside — the NBA MVP passed out of a trap to himself off the backboard, then dunked the ball home for a fourth-quarter bucket — it was the Jazz whose play on Friday dazzled most.

They played inside-out. They had just seven steals, but a boatload of deflections. They fought for loose balls, they weren't afraid to take the ball to the hole and they managed to do it all without falling into the trap of foul trouble.

Jazz All-Star Carlos Boozer, in fact, feels Utah finally dialed in Friday on the formula to success.

"If we're active defensively, and we're rebounding the ball, getting in the passing lanes, causing some deflections, making them a little bit more uncomfortable," Boozer said the morning after a 27-point, 20-rebound night, "then we have a good shot.

"And offensively," he added, "if we just keep being aggressive, and keep attacking and taking what's there, but taking it with aggression — that's our formula."

But it all starts on the defensive end.

"I think if we play that kind of defense, we could play against anybody," Boozer said. "Regardless of the offensive side of the ball, if we play active defense, and we're aggressive and getting steals, that creates some offense for us and fastbreak points."

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan couldn't have said it better.

But what really impressed Sloan on Friday, he suggested Saturday, was the Jazz's will to win — a trait not exactly front and present when the Lakers took the series' first two games in Los Angeles rather handily.

"We were a little bit more alive," Sloan said.

"They made us look bad in the early part of the ballgame, but guys fought through that," he added. "Over there, it seemed like we had a difficult time fighting back as much as we needed to to stay in the game."

In Game 3, unlike Games 1 and 2, Sloan suggested, the Jazz acted as if they truly do believe they can take this 1-4 seed series from the Lakers.

"I think they do," he said. "Otherwise, they wouldn't have come and played as hard as they did (Friday night).

"I thought we played much harder, a lot more aggressive," the Jazz coach added. "We tried to do what we had to do in order to contain some of the stuff they were killing us with."

And now Utah has life.

Which has to be a good thing.

Then again, the Jazz thought they had a heartbeat after a certain Game 3 win against the Spurs as well.

"We went into that series expecting to win that, too," Boozer said. "We didn't go in there expecting to lose."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com