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Lakers Earn Their Share

They beat the Clippers, 100-83, for a split of the season series and bolster their playoff chances; Bryant scores 38, Odom 23. Dunleavy not happy.

April 10, 2006|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

The roles continue to change, the surprising present-day status on display Sunday with the Lakers scrapping for a playoff spot and the Clippers already there.

Indeed, the Clippers came in with the better record and the chance to take the season series for the first time in 13 years, but the Lakers wouldn't let them add more sweetener to their season, beating them, 100-83, at Staples Center.

Kobe Bryant had 38 points on 14-for-27 shooting and sat out all of 37 seconds despite a calf injury that had him hobbling at the morning shoot-around. Lamar Odom had one of his best games against his former team, scoring 23 points, taking 15 rebounds and skipping over a stumbling block of sorts.

Along the way, the Lakers remained tied with Sacramento for seventh in the Western Conference. The Clippers stayed a half-game ahead of Memphis for fifth.

Odom, set adrift by the Clippers three summers ago, cast away a string of off games against his former team, scoring on dunks (four), layups (two) and three-pointers (two) on the way to making nine of 17 shots.

He had averaged only 8.5 points and 31.6% shooting in the last two games against the Clippers, enough for Laker Coach Phil Jackson to muse back in February that "there must be some tension there still."

But Odom looked loose and fluid against the Clippers, parting their defense time and again for easy baskets and creating a 2-2 deadlock in the season series.

"He's been just like that often against the Clippers. We've often remarked about that, haven't we as a group?" Jackson said sarcastically. "You [media] guys were talking down about my boy and then he just comes out there and plays the game. Lamar was great on the boards. He carried the attack."

The Clippers haven't won a season series against their city rival since 1992-93, when they won it, 3-2. They tied last season, 2-2, and held a one-game edge this season, but the fourth quarter, won by the Lakers, 28-14, did them in.

Sam Cassell and Elton Brand each had 24 points, but no other Clipper scored in double figures.

"The season series doesn't really matter," Clipper Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Winning tonight's game was really the issue. They're a team that's fighting for their playoff lives ... and this confirms more to me that we're just not ready [for the playoffs]. If we go into the playoffs like that, it's one and done."

The Lakers held a 50-45 halftime lead, but neither team created much separation until Bryant's three-pointer gave the Lakers an 85-77 lead with 5:48 to play. Odom followed with a dunk on the next Laker possession after Kwame Brown kept alive a rebound, and the Clippers never threatened from there.

The Lakers have four regular-season games left, all at home, and are three games ahead of Utah and New Orleans, who are tied for ninth.

The Clippers, meanwhile, have lost two consecutive games since winning at Phoenix, 119-105.

"I'm just sick of this," Clipper guard Cuttino Mobley said. "We're supposed to be a playoff team and we're playing like that? We've been talking about this for 15, 20 games. By now, guys are supposed to know where their shots are coming from, know where they're supposed to be and know what they're supposed to do. It's ridiculous."

Bryant limped through the shoot-around after getting kicked in the left calf during the final minute of the Lakers' loss Friday in Phoenix.

"It's tender to the touch," he said. "You can't even breathe on it."

He felt good enough to outscore the Clippers by himself in the fourth quarter, 17-14, making three of five three-point attempts.

Odom, for his part, insisted it was just another game -- "The Clippers weren't the focus tonight ... it was the Lakers against a team we needed to beat," he said -- although he acknowledged an uptick in dunks.

"Usually that's not my forte, but they have shot blockers, so I just wanted to go into the lane and finish as hard as I can," he said.

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