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Old 02-26-2009, 04:11 PM   #1
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Default Phoenix Suns (32-24) @ L.A Lakers (47-10) Game Thread

Even when they’re not playing at their exceedingly high standards, the Los Angeles Lakers keep finding ways to win.

The Phoenix Suns are finding that an up-tempo style provides their best shot to post victories.

Though Phoenix is Los Angeles’ closest pursuer in the Pacific Division, a huge gap remains between the rivals going into their matchup Thursday night.

Los Angeles (47-10) returns to Staples Center after winning its fifth straight and 16th in 18 games on Tuesday, 107-93 over Oklahoma City. Kobe Bryant scored 15 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, but the Thunder nearly erased the Lakers’ 18-point third-quarter lead.

“We’re pushing for perfection,” Lakers forward Lamar Odom said. “We can play better than what we played tonight.”

Odom had just eight points and eight rebounds versus Oklahoma City after averaging 19.0 points and 16.0 boards in his previous seven contests.

After the Thunder pulled within 79-77, Bryant re-entered with 9:17 left and scored the Lakers’ next eight points and 13 of their next 17 as Los Angeles built a 10-point lead.

Bryant, though, rolled his right ankle with 4:01 remaining when he was fouled going up for a layup. He returned after a timeout.

“It was my ankle, but I’ve got ankle insurance,” said Bryant, who moved past Adrian Dantley for 19th place on the league’s all-time scoring list. “I’m fine.”

It’s unlikely Bryant, averaging 33.3 points in his last four games, is going to let a minor ankle injury keep him out Thursday when he can face former teammate Shaquille O’Neal. Bryant and O’Neal shared All-Star Game MVP honors on Feb. 15, but the former Lakers duo hasn’t been on the same court for a regular-season game since the teams’ first meeting this season - Los Angeles’ 105-92 victory in Phoenix on Nov. 20.

O’Neal, who had 15 points and nine boards in that loss, was attending his grandmother’s funeral in New Jersey and missed the teams’ most recent meeting on Dec. 10 as the host Lakers defeated the Suns 115-110.

Phoenix traded Boris Diaw, Raja Bell and Sean Singletary to Charlotte earlier that day, so it had just eight players available.

Not only have the Suns retooled their lineup with the addition of Jason Richardson in that Dec. 10 deal, they’ve reinstated their fastbreak style under coach Alvin Gentry, who took over for the fired Terry Porter on Feb. 16. Phoenix (32-24) improved to 4-1 since Gentry took over with a 112-102 win over Charlotte on Tuesday.

The Suns are averaging 128.4 points and shooting 56.7 percent from the field in their last five games, though they are 14 1/2 games behind the Western Conference-leading Lakers.

Steve Nash had 22 points against Charlotte but left the game in the third quarter with a right ankle injury. He returned in the fourth quarter and the two-time MVP said he doesn’t expect the ankle to keep him sidelined.

Richardson also suffered a right ankle injury but scored 20 points against his former team.

“He had a good game, but he really made some big baskets more than anything,” Nash told the team’s official Web site.

In his last game visiting the Lakers, Richardson had 34 points and 10 boards in the Bobcats’ 108-95 win on March 26, 2008.

The Lakers have won five of six meetings since being ousted by the Suns in the 2007 playoffs.;...d=2009 022613

This match-up isn't the same to what it was but still...Lakers/Suns...Kobe/Shaw still has some appeal.
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