Tom Smart, Deseret News
Andrei Kirilenko, left, and Deron Williams celebrate as the Utah Jazz defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 123-115 in overtime Sunday. Both played pivotal roles in the contest. Stories in sports section. Andrei Kirilenko, left, and Deron Williams celebrate as the Utah Jazz defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 123-115 in overtime Sunday. Both played pivotal roles in the contest. The semifinal series is tied at two games apiece. Stories in sports section.

The Jazz staged an MVP party of their own design Sunday afternoon, and things got a bit loud and unruly.

That tends to happen at a lot of parties.

Just for good measure, there was an anti-Kobe celebration, too.

Two for the price of one, like the Disney Park Hopper pass.

You get inside the gates, then decide which attraction you want to visit.

Either way, Sunday's playoff encounter was a bash you didn't want to miss: great plays, close score, lots of noise.

A chance to get a good look at the MVP.

The only question being: Which MVP?

It's not a new refrain — at least in Utah — but there it was again in the Jazz's 123-115 Game 4 win over Los Angeles: They have a guy who should be winning some kind of awards, too. Which is strange, considering he's not among the three Jazz players who have been named All-Stars.

Someday that will happen.

But for now, Deron Williams will have to keep himself motivated by winning.

Still, there isn't any doubt who is the straw that stirs the Jazz's Slurpee. Williams recorded 29 points, 14 assists and a couple of steals, as the Jazz evened the series at two games each. He bounced a pass to Andrei Kirilenko late in overtime for a spinning dunk and a foul, essentially putting the game out of reach. He made all eight free throws, including four down the stretch.

It was Williams who chased down a loose ball and hit a key 20-footer in regulation, Williams who spun low and bounced to Carlos Boozer for the free throws that assured overtime.

Williams who did all that elaborate choreography.

"It's almost scary, the way he runs that team," said former Jazz and Laker forward Greg Foster. "He's a great one already."

"You don't have much coaching to do when he does the things that he does," added Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

That's not to say Williams is actually better than league MVP Kobe Bryant, who also produces freakish numbers. His 33 points and 10 assists kept the Jazz from ever building a safe lead. It was Bryant's constant pressure that kept the outcome in doubt.

The Lakers' star did it despite a balky back that he injured in the first quarter.

"No excuses for me," said Bryant. "AK (Andrei Kirilenko) did a great job. Great defensive player. They just did a terrific job."

This comes from a guy who knows defense. Most nights, Bryant draws two or even three defenders. Aside from other various and sundry characters, on Sunday he dealt with the Jazz's standard four-headed monster of Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Matt Harpring and Kyle Korver.

Although Bryant missed 20 of his 33 shots, he was still good enough to nearly win the game.

Like supermodels and chocolate chip cookies, he looks good even on bad days.

Having Bryant in Salt Lake since Friday naturally opened the door for all sorts of anti-Kobe abuse. Fans mock him, make inflammatory signs and generally treat him like they would any other airborne virus.

Conversely, the crowd periodically chants "M-V-P!" when Williams has the ball.

They chant other, less gentrified phrases when Bryant is in possession.

In their own little corner of the NBA, Williams is the show.

"If we are struggling a little to score, I try to assert myself in the game," said Williams.

Thus, in Sunday's early going, he threw two perfect alley-oop lobs to Ronnie Brewer for dunks. He landed a key 3-pointer after a flagrant foul had interrupted the rhythm. He scored 13 points in the second quarter alone.

Altogether, he made it seem a debatable point — at least for one afternoon — which was the MVP of what.

Not that Williams would argue his case; he has already said Bryant is the league's best player and that comparisons are silly.

"He's (Williams) just growing and growing and growing as a great player every day," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

Valuable is valuable, even without a title.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com