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Lakers finally run down Bulls

Gasol scores 34 points, but it takes a big third-quarter push to help L.A. regain its winning ways.

November 19, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Bresnahan is a Times staff writer

Memo to the Eastern Conference: One in a row.

OK, so the Lakers didn't beat Boston, Detroit or even Cleveland, but they jumped all over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, 116-109, a welcome sight for them after all their issues with the Pistons last Friday.

Pau Gasol had 34 points, Kobe Bryant had 21 and the Lakers returned to the winning side after a long weekend of "What happened?" queries.

Chicago is a middle-of-the-road team from the East, lucky to even to be called a Boston Lite or Mini-Detroit, but the Bulls play with enough punch to earn a "gritty" tag from Bryant the day before the game.

It wasn't quite enough to push away the memory of an 11-point home loss to Detroit, but the Lakers will gladly tuck away what happened Tuesday at Staples Center.

Their scoring runs are becoming familiar by now, practically built into the script of every Lakers act this season.

Just when they're ready to be counted out, they go on a 30-9 run against Dallas. Or they reel off 22 consecutive points against the Clippers. Or they outscore Houston in the fourth quarter, 39-17.

On Tuesday, the push came in the third quarter, the Lakers creating distance with a 12-minute, 29-18 advance that put them comfortably ahead, 90-74.

The Bulls (5-6) were done. The Lakers (8-1) had won.

"That's a sign of what this team should be about," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "I don't know if they're ready to claim that yet, but that's what makes a difference in NBA ballgames, is to find that one space where you can really bust open a game."

The Lakers were a frustrated bunch in the first half, botching several easy chances.

Sasha Vujacic missed an uncontested layup after stealing the ball on an inbound play near midcourt. Trevor Ariza couldn't quite grasp an alley-oop pass from Bryant for what would have been an easy dunk. Vujacic barely hit the rim on an open three-point attempt.

It got so frustrating that Ariza and Vujacic had words on the bench and had to be separated by Gasol during a timeout.

Ariza apparently wasn't thrilled with Vujacic's shot selection and wanted more ball movement from him.

"Trevor let it out, and it was unfortunate to see that on the floor," Jackson said.

Said Ariza: "It was just a little disagreement. We're all good now."

Driven apart in the first half, the Lakers drove a stake through Chicago in the second half.

Andrew Bynum put together his most complete quarter of the season, scoring nine points and taking six rebounds in the third. He finished with 18 points and nine rebounds, and also became the eighth-youngest player in NBA history with 1,000 career rebounds. (Bynum was 21 years and 22 days old Tuesday.)

"All I can do is try to go out there and be aggressive," Bynum said.

After halftime, the Lakers even found a way to stop fouling up easy opportunities . . . sort of.

Bryant tried to feed Ariza for a dunk on a fastbreak, but the timing was off and the ball fluttered away. Bryant, however, scooped up the loose ball and drilled a three-pointer.

Gasol had a crisp 18 points in the first quarter, making seven of nine shots, and continued to be efficient throughout the night, making 14 of 21 shots.

"We wanted to go inside and we did. We just kept rolling," Jackson said. "We just kept going there."

The Lakers now turn their attention to Thursday's game in Phoenix, where they will see an old friend or, depending on perspective, an old foe, Shaquille O'Neal.


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