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LAKERS FYI

Lakers have enjoyed a home advantage

After the next two games at Staples Center, they will play 22 of 31 on the road.

January 24, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

The Lakers reclaimed the league's top record after blowing past the Washington Wizards, but how much of it is talent and how much of it is a friendly schedule?

The answer is a lot of the former and a little of the latter.

The Lakers (34-8) have the league's highest-scoring offense, an All-Star starter, possibly an All-Star reserve, and one of the NBA's deepest benches.

But they've also played 25 home games and only 17 on the road -- with two at Staples Center against the Clippers.

Cleveland (33-8), on the other hand, has played 20 home games and 21 on the road.

Boston (36-9) has played 23 at home, 22 on the road.

Orlando (33-9) has played 20 at home, 22 on the road.

And, by the way, the Lakers' next two games are at home.

So this was why Coach Phil Jackson reacted cautiously when asked his thoughts on having the NBA's top record.

"We've probably played five more home games than a lot of those teams, so it's all relative to what the schedule is," he said. "The schedule will catch up eventually to us."

It actually starts catching up later next week. And next month. And the month after that.

In fact, after Sunday's home game against San Antonio and Tuesday's here against Charlotte, say bon voyage to the Lakers, who will have 22 of their next 31 games away from Staples Center.

The good news for them is their 12-5 road record, the second-best winning percentage in the league. (Orlando is 17-5.)

The bad news for them is that being at home is, well, kind of pleasant. In fact, they wouldn't mind being at Staples Center quite a bit in, say, June.

"Our goal is to make it back to the championship round," forward Lamar Odom said. "So the best record would mean to have home-court advantage in that round."

Assist king?

Maybe Andrew Bynum was on to something when he referred to Kobe Bryant as "Kobe Nash," a passing reference to Phoenix guard Steve Nash.

Bryant is averaging 10 assists over the last five games, a marked increase for a player who was averaging 4.6 assists a game before the surge.

"We're going through a stretch right now where teams are trying new things defensively against us to see what works," Bryant said. "We're making them pay."

Primarily, the Lakers have made undersized teams pay by feeding Bynum or Pau Gasol down low.

Washington Coach Ed Tapscott noticed Bryant's play in the Lakers' 117-97 victory Thursday over the Wizards. Bryant had five assists in only 28 minutes.

"You know what's the most impressive thing about the Lakers?" Tapscott said. "I watch Kobe Bryant, who is clearly one of the dominant scorers in basketball today, and maybe of all time, and I watched the way he made sure that every guy on the floor got shots. He shared the ball, he made sure Gasol got the ball in his spots. When [Sasha] Vujacic came in, he made sure he got corner jump shots. He made sure [Derek] Fisher curled [off screens] and got his shots.

"I watched him when he could've taken shots at any time [but] made sure his teammates got quality shots so that they were into the game, and that makes your big [players] run harder, rebound more, defend better. That makes everybody on the team participate with greater zeal when you have that type of unselfishness. . . . That is a very impressive team spirit."

Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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