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Lakers have something in reserve this time

Bench turns it around at the start of the fourth quarter and L.A. begins seven-game trip with a victory.

March 22, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

CHICAGO — The Lakers were part of another lead-blowing loss, though there were only smiles, laughter and a bag of candy being enjoyed by Lamar Odom after this one.

After all, it was the Chicago Bulls who coughed up a one-time 16-point lead as the Lakers staged a fourth-quarter rally in a 117-109 victory Saturday at the United Center.

It was the flip side of the Lakers' recent trend. Instead of the attacked, they were the attackers, overturning a six-point deficit through three quarters by outscoring the Bulls in the final 12 minutes, 36-22.

Their second unit, maligned for the better part of this month, delivered when it counted, sparking a 21-6 run to start the fourth quarter as the Lakers started their season-long seven-game trip with a victory.

One down, six to go, and the Lakers (55-14) seemed glad they weren't the ones being asked how they gave up such a large lead.

"So many things went against us tonight, we could have easily just went, 'Ah, well, we'll get the next one,' " Derek Fisher said. "But guys off the bench were contributing. These are the types of wins that build character. I think we're going to need seven of them in order to be successful on this trip."

Pau Gasol had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Trevor Ariza continued to look good in a starting role with 18 points, and Kobe Bryant had 28 points despite an off shooting night (10 for 25).

The story wasn't the starters, though.

Jordan Farmar broke free from a monthlong slump with 13 points as the Lakers' reserves basically won the game.

"They played like the second unit that we expect," Bryant said.

There was a minor twist, with Lakers Coach Phil Jackson sending out Lamar Odom with the reserves instead of Gasol to start the fourth quarter.

It was worth the shot, seeing how the reserves were so bad in a short-lived second-quarter stint that Jackson "really jerked them out quick," to use his words.

The Bulls didn't seem to mind, taking a 49-33 lead near the midpoint of the quarter.

Odom, however, worked almost flawlessly with Farmar, Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic and Josh Powell in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers trailed going into it, 87-81, but they led, 102-93, by the time Bryant and Gasol checked back into the game with 6:24 to play.

"It was good to see that from them," Jackson said. "The confidence is important, that they recognize they have to help each other out there. That's the first thing and secondly, that they stay aggressive."

Said Odom, before he dived into a bag of tropical-flavored Starburst: "They wanted to play with each other. We needed that. It came at a good time."

Walton's three-point play off a spinning layup gave the Lakers a 92-91 lead with 9:39 left in the fourth quarter, their first edge since 18-16 in the first quarter.

Then Farmar made a three-pointer, Vujacic scored on a 21-footer, Powell made a 16-footer and Farmar drilled another three-pointer.

Farmar later added a dunk from the right baseline and, hey, that was the Lakers coming back against a large lead, not fighting to hold on to one.

"They kind of overwhelmed us with their energy in the first half. We wanted to come out and do the same," Bryant said.

They did that and more, staying within a game of Cleveland (56-13) for the league's best record.


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