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Lakers seize the day (off) to look ahead

It goes without saying that they would rather play the Rockets than the troublesome Trail Blazers in the second round of the playoffs. Which may be why they won't say so out loud.

April 29, 2009|MIKE BRESNAHAN | ON THE LAKERS

Finally, there was some rest, with more on the way for the Lakers.

Their every-other-day game schedule ended as soon as they finished off the Utah Jazz on Monday.

Their reward was a day off Tuesday and some choices that went beyond shooting either free throws or outside shots after practice.

Lamar Odom joked that he would attend a Dodgers or Angels game Tuesday before admitting he would probably be in front of the TV watching Houston play Portland. (Not to mention that both local baseball teams were out of town.)

For other players, it was a chance to unwind. For Luke Walton, it was more than that, a day of forced relaxation to rest a partially torn ligament in his left ankle.

Utah didn't leave without giving the Lakers some nervous moments. Nor did the Jazz leave without giving some opinions.

Portland defeated Houston on Tuesday, 88-77, closing to within 3-2 in the series and forcing a Game 6 Thursday in Houston. How would either team fare against the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals?

"They've both got inside presence," Jazz forward Paul Millsap said. "But the Lakers got Kobe Bryant. That's going to affect the outcome of the game. What he did to us, you know, is ridiculous. . . ."

Bryant averaged 27.4 points, 5.6 assists and five rebounds in five games against the Jazz.

The Lakers went 2-2 against Portland in the regular season and 4-0 against Houston. They have lost eight consecutive games in Portland but are 5-2 in Houston over the last four seasons.

For obvious reasons, the Lakers would rather play Houston, but, well, they won't say that on the record.

They're well aware that their last five games at the Rose Garden ended in losses by an average of 10.6 points.

"Portland is a team that plays well at home against us," Odom said. "They seem to kind of handle us up there."

But the Rockets could eliminate Portland on Thursday.

"They, of course, like to get it inside," Odom said. "Yao Ming is an awesome player. [Shane] Battier and [Ron] Artest are playing great defensively. We're going to have to be on our 'A' game when we play against either team."

Bynum banter

Andrew Bynum averaged five points and three rebounds while shooting 39.1% in the first round.

Next up for him -- the starting lineup.

Regardless of which opponent the Lakers get in the next round, Bynum is expected to return to starter status.

"He can certainly give us minutes against either one of those teams," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "More than likely I would put him right back in the starting lineup in that situation.

"I think we're pretty good with that lineup. We've done some good things during the course of the year, even in Andrew's comeback, we've had some good games from him out there."

Bynum averaged 17.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in the last four games of the regular season after returning from a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Three of those games were against playoff teams -- Utah, Denver and Portland.

In five playoff games against Utah, however, he was seventh on the team in scoring and fifth in rebounding.

His teammates think it was just a one-series aberration.

"Andrew's a big piece of our team and I expect him to contribute a lot more than he was able to this series," Pau Gasol said. "I think the matchups didn't help for him to be out there."

Times staff writers Broderick Turner and Lisa Dillman contributed to this report.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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