HOUSTON — The Lakers were still feeling the effects of a road game gone awry in Portland, Lamar Odom not exactly thrilled with his one-game suspension for leaving the bench during a scuffle with the Trail Blazers.
Then Coach Phil Jackson approached reserve power forward Josh Powell at the Wednesday afternoon shoot-around.
"Josh, get in the first group," Jackson said, and the momentum began to turn.
Powell responded to his first start of the season with a season-high 17 points on eight-for-14 shooting. He also had nine rebounds in almost 35 minutes of the Lakers' 102-96 victory over the Houston Rockets.
"Josh Powell did a remarkable job," Kobe Bryant said.
Powell had six points and five rebounds in the third quarter as the Lakers cut a 14-point deficit to three going into the fourth quarter.
He more than helped counter the loss of Odom, who forfeited about $104,000 in salary for his one-game punishment. He will be eligible to play again tonight against San Antonio.
Odom took part in the afternoon shoot-around but was not allowed in the arena during the game, as per league rules. He planned to watch the game on TV at the team hotel a few blocks away.
"There's nothing I can do," he said. "Next time I'll know to be a good boy."
Odom also couldn't believe how he found out about his suspension.
"I wasn't alerted," he said. "I saw it on the [cable-TV] ticker."
Odom wasn't the only member of the Lakers who seemed unhappy with the circumstances of his suspension.
"When an altercation happens right in front of a team's bench, it's almost impossible for players not to react to help their teammates, especially when somebody like [Brandon] Roy runs up into the fray and really activates everything," Jackson said. "The instinct is to protect your players. Lamar made that step. Other guys had the instinct but didn't make the step, so you know you made a mistake, you know the league rules, and we'll have to deal with it."
Bad Blazers blood?
The scuffle between the Lakers and Trail Blazers brought up a bigger question: Is there bad blood between the teams?
Sure looks like it.
In the eyes of the young Trail Blazers, the Lakers have tried to "be a bully" when they have faced Portland.
Last season during a game in Portland, Odom fouled Roy hard, causing him to fall on his tailbone and writhe in pain. Odom was assessed a Type 2 flagrant foul, which carried an automatic ejection with it.
The play happened in a game last April, in the third quarter, with the Lakers trailing, 85-71. The Lakers lost, 112-103, at the Rose Garden, a place where they have lost seven in a row.
Fast forward to Monday night, and the Lakers trailing by 28 points late in the third quarter when Trevor Ariza was ejected after laying out Rudy Fernandez on a fast-break layup. Players from both teams shoved each other in the altercation near the Lakers' bench.
Fernandez was carted off the floor, sustained a soft-tissue injury to his upper chest and did not play Wednesday against Dallas.
"It's funny. Before the game, me and LaMarcus [Aldridge] were laughing, saying, 'They're going to do something,' " Roy told the Oregonian. "He was like, 'Well, we'll be ready.' And I was like, 'Yeah, we will be ready.'
"So I'm not saying that we predicted it, but we knew they were going to . . . try to be a bully. Again, I'm not trying to say [they're] dirty. But it just seems like every time we play them [there's something]."
Odom, for his part, said he started stepping toward the court when he saw Ariza getting pushed by Roy and Aldridge.
"I probably would do the same thing over again if I see one of my teammates put under pressure by two guys from the other team," Odom said. "I was no further than when I cheer. I guess I'm on the court when I cheer as well, so I've got to watch that. I might get suspended for that."
Stay tuned. The Lakers face the Trail Blazers once more during the regular season, April 10, in Portland.
AT SAN ANTONIO
Time: 5 PDT.
On the air: TV: Channel 9, TNT; Radio: 570, 1330.
Where: AT&T Center.
Records: Lakers 51-13, Spurs 43-20.
Record vs. Spurs: 1-1.
Update: San Antonio is riding a three-game winning streak and is second in the Western Conference despite playing without Manu Ginobili for 25 games because of assorted injuries. Ginobili has been sidelined most recently because of a stress reaction in his right ankle that has cost him 12 games. The Lakers lost to the Spurs in San Antonio on Jan. 14, 112-111, but beat them 11 days later at Staples Center, 99-85.
-- Mike Bresnahan