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Old 04-03-2009, 08:58 AM   #1
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Default Article: Riverside Press Enterprise - Hoping to get well at home

Source: Hoping to get well at home


The Lakers awoke in their own beds Thursday morning for the first time in two weeks, a welcome respite after a meandering seven-game road trip that began promisingly but left a hint of a sour aftertaste.

A gritty come-from-behind victory in Milwaukee salvaged a 5-2 trip, but it didn't fully assuage concerns about slippage in the team's level of play entering the final seven games of the regular season. At a time when the Lakers want to be peaking for the playoffs, stagnant offense, inconsistent bench play, weary-legged shooting and occasional lapses in concentration have made them appear vulnerable instead.

"There's a sense of urgency to play much better," point guard Derek Fisher said. "I don't think we've looked at our games any differently after clinching the West, but with that next goal of winning the championship being so far removed from today, collectively we had a hard time putting that carrot this close instead of that close. We lost sight of what we needed to do night-in, night-out."

If a marathon is an apt metaphor for the grueling regular season, then the Lakers (59-16) find themselves in an awkward position as they prepare to launch their finishing kick. Cleveland's two-game lead could make it futile to press onward in the chase for home court advantage in the NBA Finals, yet the Lakers can't afford to coast so much that they allow Boston or Orlando to overtake them.

Coach Phil Jackson says he's not ready to start limiting the minutes his starters play, let alone holding them out of games. That's just fine with Kobe Bryant, who insists he's not fatigued and doesn't need the break.
"A break for what?" Bryant said. "People spend their hard-earned money to come watch us play, so we'll play."

Complicating matters somewhat is the need to work Andrew Bynum back into the rotation once the injured center is able to return. Bynum participated in a 3-on-3 half-court scrimmage with teammates during Thursday's optional practice in El Segundo, but likely needs at least another week to build his stamina.

Whether Bynum is on the court or not, the final two weeks are rife with difficult games. A game at the dreaded Rose Garden in Portland highlights the remaining schedule, and Western Conference playoff teams Houston, Denver and Utah visit Staples Center.

"We have to pick our game back up again and start playing with much more freedom," Jackson said. "We've been limited in what we do in transition a lot and we've been limited in what we do in second-chance points. We're one of the teams that scores the most points in the league in the paint, and we've been limited in that because of our lack of penetration. We want to get those things back."

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