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 Gasol scores 23 points, Lakers pick up win No. 60

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PostSubject: Gasol scores 23 points, Lakers pick up win No. 60   Sat Apr 04, 2009 8:34 pm

LOS ANGELES(AP) With six games left in the
season and the Lakers already in the playoffs, Phil Jackson still won't
take his foot off the gas.Pau Gasol had 23 points and 10
rebounds, Kobe Bryant added 20 points, and the Los Angeles Lakers
picked up their 60th victory by beating the Houston Rockets 93-81 on
Friday night.Gasol and Bryant both played 38-plus minutes for
the Lakers, who reached 60 wins for the 11th time in franchise history
but the first since they went 67-15 in 1999-2000.Los Angeles
pulled within a game of Cleveland for the NBA's best record, and
Jackson definitely wants the Lakers to have the home-court advantage
throughout the playoffs."We have to make an attempt for it. I
wouldn't feel good about it, even with these players, if we didn't. We
really don't have to threaten our well-being by doing it, I don't
think,'' the Lakers coach said.So winning against possible postseason opponents also makes a statement?"I
think it certainly does drive home a message. It's not the end,
obviously, the games have to be played, but teams have that in the back
of their mind, 'Here it goes again, we're going to lose again.' That's
an issue I think that's important, to always have that kind of
dominance.''The Lakers did, but they had to push and shove for it against Houston.The
game was gritty from the start and three technicals were called before
the first quarter was over - on Bryant, teammate Derek Fisher and the
Rockets' Aaron Brooks."They're a tough team and we've had our
problems with them in the past and during the regular season,'' Bryant
said. "I wanted to send a message to my teammates and to the referees
that we're here to play, we're not going to be out here just kind of
going through the motions."If a guy's going to grab my shirt,
I'm going to let you know about it. It's important to come out with a
sense of urgency right from the top. We're fighting for a bigger prize.
It's going to get chippy.''Ron Artest had 21 points for the Rockets, who slid into fifth in the Western Conference, a half-game behind Portland.Bryant
hit consecutive 3-pointers with less than five minutes remaining to
give the Lakers an 11-point lead and Gasol made four free throws down
the stretch.Yao Ming had 16 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks
for the Rockets. Luis Scola scored 16 for Houston, which was swept by
the Lakers in the season series for the first time in seven years.The
Rockets had a 13-4 run that stretched from the third into the fourth,
but then went without a field goal for nearly five minutes until Scola
hit a jumper with 5:25 remaining."That is why they are a finals
team. In the fourth quarter they take control,'' Houston coach Rick
Adelman said. "That is something that we knew going in because it
happened the last three games and it kind of happened tonight, too.''So why did it happen?"From
the first minutes of the game up until the last minutes we didn't run
our plays,'' Yao said. "We keep saying that from the first games of the
season till now and we have two weeks left until the playoffs. We'll
see if we execute.''Shane Battier, who finished with 14 points,
brought the Rockets within five with 4:41 to play, but that's when
Bryant started hitting 3s.Notes: Lakers center Andrew Bynum
(torn MCL) started working on 3-on-3 drills on Thursday and is still
hoping to get on the court before the playoffs start. "The lateral
movement started to feel better, so that was the next step,'' Bynum
said before the game. ... Adelman is hoping to have Carl Landry back
before the season ends. Landry was shot in the leg on March 16 and has
participated in drills, but hasn't fully recovered.

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