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Hearts Aren't in It, Lakers Lose Again : Pro basketball: 'We weren't ready,' Scott says after the Rockets' 126-107 victory.


HOUSTON — Present in body but not in spirit, the Lakers saw Hakeem Olajuwon at his best and their defense at its worst Tuesday night.

Olajuwon mauled the Lakers for 29 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and three steals as the Houston Rockets scored a 126-107 victory at the Summit, extending their winning streak to six. The Rockets have won a league-best 20 games since the All-Star break.

Olajuwon's secret?

"It's mental. Once you're ready mentally, it's easy," Olajuwon said of his performance before a sellout crowd of 16,611. "Mental preparation is the key."

That's an area in which the Lakers (35-40) acknowledged that they were deficient.

Unable to contain Olajuwon or stop Houston's outside shooting, the Lakers faded after a 12-2 run during the second quarter gave Houston a 42-34 lead. The Rockets led by 15 at halftime, and the Lakers never again got closer than 13 as they lost for the seventh time in their last eight games and 12th in 14. They are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Denver Nuggets for the final Western conference playoff spot.

"We weren't ready," the Lakers' Byron Scott said. "We just didn't have the enthusiasm and we didn't have the type of atmosphere you need to jump on a team that's red hot like they are. Why weren't we ready? That's a good question. The game plan was pretty simple. But after the first (quarter), we seemed to get away from everything that got us where we were."

Said A.C. Green, who had 13 points and eight rebounds in the Lakers' worst loss ever to Houston at the Summit: "You can't give anybody desire. That's something that lies in the heart of each man and something we need to have increased as a whole.

"You can talk, you can meet, you can come in early and stay late, you can watch videos and do all those things, but that's not where the problem might be lying. It might be on the inside, like a cancer, so to speak. Personally, I start (preparing) there. I start on the inside and then come to the external. By and large, that's where it has to start. The major problem is there."

There, and in their lack of defense.

"That's our biggest concern," Coach Randy Pfund said of his team, which is giving up 105.4 points per game. "It seems when we're able to defend, we're able to stay in the game."

Said Green: "Normally, before the playoffs, you should be trying to tighten your defense and work on certain strategies. That's something we're used to doing come March and April. It's a challenge for this particular team to stay challenged and focused to do that."

Scott had 14 points in 25 minutes, almost as much time as he got in the previous two games. Scott, who said after playing 12 minutes Sunday he would rather not start if he is going to play so little, said Tuesday that by limiting his minutes, Pfund had "made it pretty clear" the Lakers won't re-sign him when he becomes a free agent. "With that in mind, I have to look at other options," Scott said.

However, Pfund said he's not deliberately slighting Scott. "If I don't feel Byron is playing well and helping the team, Anthony (Peeler) will be on the floor. If Byron is playing well, he'll be there," Pfund said. "I'm trying to get the best out of both of them, and I think this is the way to do it."

Laker Notes

Doug Christie had a career-high 17 points, but only one point during the first half. . . . James Worthy (four points) didn't play during the second half. . . . Benoit Benjamin was ejected with 4:40 to play after arguing a foul call.

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