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Been there, won that

The Lakers, having exhausted nearly every other method, find a relatively new way to win, outrunning up-tempo Raptors. Bryant, Gasol sit out the fourth.

December 01, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Bresnahan is a Times staff writer.

The Lakers are running out of ways to win.

Fall behind and catch up? Done it a few times. Win with defense? Also been done. Outrun an up-tempo team? It happened Sunday.

The Lakers outscored the Toronto Raptors, beating them at their own push-the-pace preference, 112-99, at Staples Center.

Pau Gasol had 24 points, Kobe Bryant had 23, and perhaps the only other activity that needed to be mentioned was some inactivity -- neither Bryant nor Gasol played in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers (14-1) seem to be enjoying themselves, not that it's overly difficult to comprehend. Their average margin of victory (15.5 points a game) eclipses anybody else's, and they are now two victories shy of the 2001-02 team that set a Lakers standard by winning 16 of its first 17 games.

They seem to win via different dimensions these days, Sunday being the time to show they can out-point a relatively point-happy bunch.

The Lakers beat the Raptors in fastbreak points, 18-7, and drilled them in points in the paint, 58-32.

"We have the versatility to play any kind of way," said forward Trevor Ariza, who had 14 points. "The way the NBA is, that's a good thing because we can slow the ball down, we can run up and down the court, we can do whatever."

The Lakers again caught a break in the injury department, facing the Raptors without center/forward Jermaine O'Neal, who was sidelined because of a sprained ankle. (The Lakers beat Dallas on Friday when the Mavericks were without their second-leading scorer, Josh Howard.)

But the Raptors kept it interesting by making 10 of their first 19 three-point attempts, a sharp 52.6%.

The Lakers saw a 15-point lead trickle down to 90-84 early in the fourth quarter, but, in their now-familiar way, answered with a game-clinching 17-4 burst.

Sasha Vujacic scored on a driving layup, Ariza hit a baseline hook shot and then their fun really began.

Vujacic threw a lob to Andrew Bynum, who reached backward to corral the ball and dunk it. Then Bynum had another dunk off a lob, this time from Jordan Farmar. Less than a minute later, Bynum collected a rebound and heaved the ball downcourt to Lamar Odom, who no-looked a pass to Ariza for a dunk.

From there, it was just a matter of time before the purple and gold confetti dropped from the ceiling after another Lakers victory.

The Lakers, who begin a three-game Eastern trip Tuesday at Indiana, continue to whisper about a recent inability to put inferior teams away in the first half, perhaps their only mild concern 15 games into an overwhelmingly successful start.

"Honestly, I don't know what it is," Ariza said. "We're not doing it on purpose. Everybody in the NBA is a pretty good team. Most of the time, we can't just beat them in the first quarter."

Bynum beat the Raptors in just about every quarter, posting his fourth double-double in the last five games and finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds, including three dunks in the fourth quarter.

Bryant, for his part, threw in seven assists, pushing the Lakers to a season-high 34 as a team.

"He's looking to pass the ball," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "I thought he stayed aggressive in the things that we had to have."

Bryant also made nine of 14 shots, increasing a smooth-shooting streak to four of the last five games. Tossing out a five-for-17 effort against New Jersey, Bryant has made 45 of 77 shots (58.4%) in victories over Denver, Sacramento, Dallas and Toronto.

"We're just playing well, playing in rhythm," Bryant said. "We understand each other. We've been together for a while."

Beforehand, Jackson said a 10-5 start "would have been great with us," underscoring the Lakers' attempt to manage expectations.

It's too late. There's no secret. The Lakers just keep winning.


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