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Lakers seek a way to hop on boards

They worry about rebounding and defending against Utah despite Game 1 win.

May 06, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

The questions bounced around the practice facility as if the Lakers actually lost Game 1 against Utah.

Why can't they rebound? Are they physical enough to win a best-of-seven series against Utah? Will Kobe Bryant need to get to the line 20 times every game to keep his team in the series?

So many questions a day after the Lakers' 109-98 series-opening victory, some of them valid after the Lakers lost most of a 19-point lead and were thoroughly overwhelmed on the boards, 58-41.

"We definitely have to match that physicality," Pau Gasol said. "They can't feel that they can overpower us or take advantage of us on the offensive boards."

Utah wasn't a great rebounding team during the regular season, finishing 24th in the league, but the Jazz looked like a team of Dennis Rodmans against the Lakers.

Well, sort of.

"It's either that, or the two hands in the back," Bryant said, referring to the hands-on style of the Jazz.

Utah was called for 33 fouls in Game 1, nine more than its league-leading average per game in the regular season.

Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko fouled out, and shooting guard Ronnie Brewer even got into the act with five fouls.

The Lakers are expecting more of the same Wednesday in Game 2, and Coach Phil Jackson might have been sending a preliminary message to the next officiating crew when asked about it Monday.

"They bring the [physical] element up, let the referees make a decision upon what is a foul and isn't, and it escalates," he said.

Utah has its share of issues too, primarily what to do with Bryant.

The Jazz can send more players at Bryant and force Gasol and Lamar Odom to do the damage. Or Utah can try to stop Bryant one-on-one, which is also kind of a problem.

Bryant made a team playoff-record 21 free throws in Game 1, leading Utah Coach Jerry Sloan to figure out how to stop him for Game 2.

"Make him stay at home," Sloan quipped.

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Andrew Bynum is getting another medical opinion on his left knee and could undergo surgery depending on the results of an exam Wednesday with knee specialist Steven Gecha in Princeton, N.J.

Bynum has already consulted with a specialist outside of the Lakers -- David Altchek of New York.

Gecha is somewhat familiar with Bynum, having performed an unspecified operation on Bynum's right knee when Bynum was 12 years old.

Bynum, 20, has been sidelined since Jan. 13 because of a bone bruise in his left knee and briefly dislocated kneecap. He still feels pain in the knee, making surgery a prime option as his on-court absence edges closer to four months.

Surgery could delay a contract extension for Bynum, who is signed for one more season at $2.8 million but can begin negotiating in July an extension of up to five additional years and about $80 million.

The Lakers presumably want to see a healthy and productive Bynum before investing so much in him.

It is unclear how long he would be sidelined if he underwent surgery.

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The NBA will officially announce that Bryant is the league MVP at a news conference today at a hotel near LAX.

Bryant, who has never won the award, will receive the MVP trophy Wednesday from NBA Commissioner David Stern during a pregame ceremony.

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Here's an aberration: A coach is mad at his players, not the referees, for too many foul calls. "We can't hold and grab them as much," Sloan said. "We got four or five fouls trying to pull guys' uniforms off. That shouldn't happen in a ballgame."

Times staff writer Jonathan Abrams contributed to this report.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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