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LAKERS 114, GOLDEN STATE 106

Lakers nearly blow another one

They let 18-point lead in third quarter get down to three in fourth before holding off Warriors.

March 20, 2009|Broderick Turner

Another big lead. Another blown lead.

Almost another blown game.

The 18-point, third-quarter lead the Lakers built dipped to three points deep into the fourth quarter, leaving the fans at Staples Center on Thursday night exasperated and nervous before the Lakers pulled out a 114-106 victory over the Golden State Warriors.

Building leads and losing them has become a pattern with the Lakers, one they vowed to correct.

They lost big leads in recent games to the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers, who overcame a 14-point deficit to pull out a stunning victory Tuesday night.

Unlike the 76ers game, when the Lakers crumbled, they held strong behind the late-game play of Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza.

The Warriors closed to within 107-104 on a basket by Monta Ellis (27 points).

Right after that, Ariza stepped into a three-point shot for a 110-104 Lakers lead.

After Stephen Jackson missed a three-point shot, Odom was fouled.

Odom (16 points, 12 rebounds) made both free throws for a 112-106 lead.

The Lakers went on to win, but it left some of their fans walking out wondering if they indeed have lost that killer instinct.

It's something the Lakers will need when they leave today for a 13-day, seven-game trip.

"It happens because teams are not going to die," Odom said. "They're going to keep fighting. We'll address it with time together."

The Lakers improved to 54-14 behind 21 points and 14 rebounds from Pau Gasol and 21 points from Kobe Bryant.

"We know it's there," Luke Walton said of the Lakers' propensity to give up leads. "We know we've got to fix it. We just can't keep talking about it."

The Lakers remain one game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers (55-13) for the best record in the NBA.

Every step along the way, the Cavaliers are seemingly in concert with the Lakers. Every step along the way, the Lakers keep an eye on what the Cavaliers are doing.

The Lakers played Tuesday night, the Cavaliers played earlier that night. The Lakers played Thursday night, the Cavaliers played earlier that night.

The Lakers coaches have watched both games, knowing before their game with the Warriors was over that the Cavaliers had defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in overtime.

A third-quarter 22-7 run that pushed the Lakers' one-point lead to 74-57 included a dunk by Walton over former teammate Ronny Turiaf.

The Lakers went on to open a 77-59 lead later in the third.

They shot 50% from the field and 50% from three-point range in the third.

A Lakers bench that had prided itself on being the best in the NBA, that gave itself the nickname of Bench Mob, had come under heavy criticism from Lakers Coach Phil Jackson for its me-first approach to the game.

The bench was given yet another opportunity to pull its weight against a Warriors team that was missing starters Andris Biedrins (sprained right ankle) and Jamal Crawford (inactive) and lost Anthony Randolph to a strained groin in the first half.

The Lakers reserves were more active in the first half.

They accounted for 15 first-half points.

But they still had too many turnovers, ending the half with five of the team's eight, three by DJ Mbenga.

Josh Powell led the Lakers substitutes with seven points and four rebounds.

Even Shannon Brown entered midway through the second quarter.

The most important thing was that the Lakers' bench played one of its better games.

Sasha Vujacic, who has been struggling with his shot lately, had one of his better games, finishing with 12 points.

Walton provided nine points on four-for-six shooting.

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broderick.turner@latimes.com

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