He laughs about it now.

But when then-USA Basketball teammate Kobe Bryant was beating him time after time in post-practice contests during the days and weeks leading up to last summer's Olympic Games, Deron Williams didn't find it so funny.

Still doesn't, he jokes.

"Watching him and playing against him every day ... he's a competitor," said Williams, whose Jazz are in the midst of a first-round NBA playoff series with Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. "He's kind of like me. He hates to lose.

We had a lot of shooting contests after practices — of which he cheated to win."

How so?

"We would be shooting shots," Williams recalled, "and then, all of a sudden, for the last shot, when I'm about to win, he wants to come over and contest it or foul me or something like that."

Williams, speaking at the Jazz's morning shootaround Thursday, encouraged a reporter to question Bryant on the subject.

The reigning NBA MVP wasn't buying Williams' assertion.

"He's a liar," Bryant joked after his own shootaround. "He's mad because I used to kick his butt all the time and I used to tell him about it.

"He didn't like it very much" the Lakers star added with a smile on his face. "He lost all the time."

Well, almost all the time.

"He may have beaten me once," Bryant said.

"He beat me in a 3-point shooting game. It was myself, LeBron (James), D-Wade (Dwyane Wade), Carmelo (Anthony), and we were the last two standing.

"He managed to win that one, but one out of two months is not real good. Tell him I said that."

LINEUP CHANGE: The Jazz had an opening-lineup change for Thursday's late-starting Game 3.

Veteran Andrei Kirilenko came off the bench for all but 10 of the 67 games in which he played during the past regular season, but he opened at small forward Thursday in place of back-to-the-bench Kyle Korver.

Kirilenko shot just 3-for-10 from the field in Game 1, and played only 17 minutes in Tuesday's Game 2.

The switch was made primarily for defensive reasons, as Korver had trouble keeping up with Lakers small forward Trevor Ariza in the first two games of the best-of-seven series.

"Just a little more length out there," Williams said.

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was reluctant to start Kirilenko at the beginning of the series, saying he preferred to have him available as a defender on Bryant when starting shooting guard Ronnie Brewer wasn't matched against the Lakers star.

C.J. Miles started at small forward throughout the regular season, but — with the inexperienced Miles bothered by a dislocated index finger on his shooting hand, and strong-shooting center Mehmet Okur injured as well — Sloan tapped Korver with hopes that his shooting touch would help spread the floor.

After Korver shot 4-for-10 in Game 2, though, the move was made.

"Ariza's had great runs here on us in the (first two) games," Sloan said after Thursday's shootaround. "I thought I'd tried to start Andrei, and see what happens."

OKUR UPDATE: Okur missed Utah's final regular-season game and the series' first two games against the Lakers because of a strained right hamstring.

He didn't take part in the shootaround, and afterward suggested he's unsure if he'll available for Saturday night's Game 4.

"It's hard to tell, saying anything, right now," Okur said.

"I'm just going to continue to get treatment, and do more stuff to have to push myself, and see what happens."

With Okur out again, veteran Jarron Collins made a third straight postseason start. He had just three starts in the regular season.

Contributing: Loren Jorgensen, Jody Genessy. E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com