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Trying to stop bad (team) habit

November 23, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Bresnahan is a Times staff writer.

Good news for the Lakers: None of their opponents the next nine games have winning records.

Bad news for the Lakers: None of their opponents the next nine games have winning records.

The Lakers finally broke a strange habit last season, able to beat teams with bad records after failing to do it for several seasons.

They'll get a chance to prove themselves again with a string of games that can hardly be called running the gantlet: Sacramento twice, New Jersey, Dallas, Toronto, Indiana, Philadelphia, Washington and Milwaukee.

The Lakers (10-1) aren't going to start losing now, are they?

"The first three years of my career, we did stuff like that, and we would lose to teams who were under .500," center Andrew Bynum said. "I think Charlotte still has a winning record against us since I've played on this team."

The kid knows his stuff. The Bobcats are 4-2 against the Lakers since Bynum entered the league, including a 108-95 victory at Staples Center last season.

The Lakers were 1-1 against Charlotte, 1-1 against Milwaukee and 1-1 against New Jersey last season, almost cause for celebration after their performance against sub-.500 teams in 2006-07. That season, the Lakers were swept by New York, lost two of three against a shaky Portland team and were 2-2 against Memphis, which finished with the league's worst record.

Bynum said it would be different this season.

"We're going to carry that focus," he said. "Plus, everybody has that taste of last year in our mouth when we lost in the Finals. We're going to have to be sharp."

Bynum banter

Bynum is gradually looking sharper, going for 13 points and 13 rebounds against Denver after getting 18 points and nine rebounds a few days earlier against Chicago.

In between, he had a herky-jerky 10-point, seven-rebound effort against Phoenix that could be attributed to foul trouble, but he seemed to be growing more comfortable the last few games.

He is also shooting better -- 59.3% the last three games -- after starting the season with surprisingly low 45.5% accuracy.

"Day by day, man," he said. "I was out for a long time, so I'll build it up and hopefully be playing better than I was last year."

Bynum also tied a career high with five assists against Denver.

"I was just drawing the double team and kicking out the ball quick," he said. "That's what you're supposed to do. That's what you're taught to do."

Sleep aid

Kobe Bryant was a key to the Lakers' 67-47 halftime lead Friday against Denver, making seven of 11 shots and scoring 18 points in the first half.

"I wanted to do a little bit more . . . especially in these 'sleeper' games," he said. "We come out and have a slow start and all of a sudden we find ourselves in a pretty serious fight, so I wanted to come out and get us going."

Bryant finished with 29 points and did not play in the fourth quarter of the Lakers' 104-90 victory.



Lakers tonight

vs. Sacramento, 6:30,

Fox Sports West

Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- 570, 1330.

Records -- Lakers 10-1, Kings 5-9.

Record vs. Kings (2007-08) -- 3-1.

Update -- The Kings are no longer the veteran team they used to be after trading Mike Bibby to Atlanta in February and Ron Artest to Houston in July. The Kings are 28th in the league in defense, giving up 104 points a game. Leading scorer Kevin Martin (22.4) has been out seven consecutive games because of a sprained ankle. The Kings are 2-5 in his absence.

-- Mike Bresnahan

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