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 Lakers beat Blazers for 15th straight home win

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PostSubject: Lakers beat Blazers for 15th straight home win   Tue Jan 06, 2009 12:05 am

LOS ANGELES(AP) Once again, the Lakers have the best record in the NBA - thanks to a little help from the Celtics and Cavaliers.Kobe
Bryant scored 26 points, Pau Gasol added 19 and Los Angeles beat the
Portland Trail Blazers 100-86 Sunday night for its sixth consecutive
victory and 15th straight at home.The defending Western
Conference champions realize that not having homecourt advantage
against the Celtics in last year's finals probably cost them the NBA
title, and they want to do something about it this time around. They
are 27-5, one fewer loss than Boston and Cleveland.The Cavaliers
and Celtics each lost Sunday to bottom teams in the East. Boston was
beat by the Knicks and Cleveland fell to Washington."It's
obviously important to have homecourt advantage, so we look at it as a
challenge to achieve that goal,'' Bryant said. "Obviously we have a
long way to go. It's a great opportunity. We have quite a few home
games here, so we look forward to trying to stretch this out a little
bit. We have plenty more gears to go to. Plenty more. I haven't even
played in third gear yet.''LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with
22 points and 11 rebounds, as all five starters scored in double
figures. But the Blazers shot only 39 percent overall."They are
a good group, and they are on a mission,'' Portland coach Nate McMillan
said. "They definitely know what they need to do to win, and right now
everybody is healthy for them. Phil (Jackson) can push a lot of buttons
and he has a lot of different combinations that he can go with, as far
as playing big or small.''Facing the Trail Blazers for the first
time since a season-opening, 96-76 win - Portland's lowest point total
ever against the Lakers - Los Angeles pulled away with a 15-3 run that
increased its four-point lead to 75-59 with 2:12 left in the third
quarter."They came out with the momentum in the third quarter
and took over the game,'' Aldridge said. "A lot of guys had open shots.
We just didn't make them. Kobe kind of took over and did what he does.''Bryant
and Gasol got the Lakers' pivotal rally going with 16-foot jumpers,
Derek Fisher added a 3-pointer and Sasha Vujacic capped the rally with
a four-point play - converting the free throw after Rudy Fernandez
fouled him on a 3-pointer."I like that play a lot,'' Vujacic
said. "Sometimes I'm worried that if the guy's not very cautious or if
he comes to me at a high speed, I've got to kind to jump back because I
can sprain my ankle. So it's not easy. In the first half, he kind of
threw himself into my legs on my pick-and-roll with Andrew (Bynum), so
I knew he was going to foul me on that play and I kind of isolated him
and just took a shot.''Vujacic, playing despite a case of
tonsillitis, had 11 points in 26 minutes. Vladimir Radmanovic had 16
points off the bench for the Lakers, 12 of them in the fourth quarter.
Portland made only three of 14 shots during the first 6:06 of the
quarter, all of them 3-pointers, and never got closer than 14 points."It's
always a good sign to be on top, but you just can't relax,'' Gasol
said. "There's too many games and too much competition to just relax
and get comfortable and be satisfied with the best record.''The
Lakers, hoping to get out to a fast start against a Portland lineup
missing leading scorer Brandon Roy because of an injured right
hamstring, didn't take their first lead until Trevor Ariza's two free
throws put them ahead 51-50 with 52.5 seconds left in the first half.
Portland led 25-19 through one quarter after forcing nine turnovers -
all of them in a 7:25 span and one fewer than the Lakers had in
Friday's win over Utah."It happens every once in a while,''
Bryant said. "Sometimes the rhythm isn't there, you can't quite get a
handle on the ball and the team that you're playing against is playing
extremely well with a lot of energy. So you just have to put a stop to
it somehow. But some of those turnovers were self-inflicted.''Notes:
The Lakers have defeated four of the teams that have beaten the
defending champion Celtics - Portland, Golden State, Denver and New
York. The only club to beat both of last year's NBA finalists is
Indiana. ... Portland forced an average of 13.4 turnovers through their
previous 33 games this season. The Lakers finished with 14 despite the
sloppy start. ... The Lakers have won 18 of their last 20 home games
against Portland and five in a row. ... Lakers F Luke Walton didn't
play because of inflammation in the big toe on his right foot. ... The
Lakers haven't allowed more than 23 points by an opposing player in
seven straight games.

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