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LAKERS

Lakers lead Oklahoma City, 62-38, at halftime

Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant each have 13 points in the first half.

March 25, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

OKLAHOMA CITY — These are the games the Lakers cherish, the ones where they can sit on the sideline with a comfortable lead and laugh hysterically when Lamar Odom fouls out.

There have been surprisingly few of them this season because of a well-documented propensity to blow big leads, but the Lakers made a 17-point first-quarter margin stand up with ease Tuesday in a 107-89 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Ford Center.

It was the Lakers' ninth wire-to-wire victory but first since a 20-point stroll past Washington on Jan. 22. The Lakers had 15 such victories last season.

Pau Gasol wasn't happy after receiving a scratch near his nose in the second quarter, but the Lakers found themselves in a laugher in every sense of the term, particularly when Odom fouled out with 8:17 left in the fourth quarter.

Odom, who had re-entered the game 15 seconds earlier, angrily protested the call while walking to the bench as Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Trevor Ariza tried unsuccessfully to hide their amusement. Eventually, Odom grinned as he put on his warmups. The Lakers, after all, led by 19 at the time.

It was that kind of night for the visitors, who moved to 2-0 on a seven-game trip, their longest of the season.

Bryant had 19 points and did not play in the fourth quarter. Odom had 18 points. Gasol, nicked on the right side of his face by Thunder forward Nick Collison, finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.

Oklahoma City (20-51) was pretty much finished in the first quarter, when the Lakers took a 37-20 lead on Bryant's floater in the lane with one second left.

Thanks to an 11-0 run in the final three minutes, the lead swelled to 62-38 at halftime, at which point the Lakers (56-14) might as well have been credited with a victory.

They now trail Cleveland (57-13) by one game for the best record in the league. The Lakers own the tiebreaker, but the Cavaliers own the comfort of only four more regular-season road games. The Lakers have seven more road games.

"They have a better chance right now," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "They have a better chance, but the tie goes to us, and it's important that we keep the pressure on them."

Jackson also revealed his goal for the trip, the longest the Lakers have ever experienced this late in the season.

"We want to come home with 60 wins," he said, which would mean at least a 6-1 mark on the trip. "That's an important part of it for us."

It would also be important if they kept getting their top players ample rest.

Bryant played only 29 minutes, more than seven below his average. Gasol played a touch under 34 minutes after averaging 40.3 minutes in the previous six games.

"We should try to do that more often, absolutely," Gasol said of the rout. "We haven't been able to do that as often as we should."

There were other rarities Tuesday.

On one play, Gasol took a long rebound, dribbled behind his back at midcourt around Thabo Sefolosha, then moved past Russell Westbrook and just missed a running layup attempt over Nenad Krstic.

He was a little more successful on another play, scooping up a loose ball in one end and firing it down to Bryant, who passed behind his back to Ariza for a dunk and an 86-63 lead.

It was an easy night for the Lakers, who wouldn't mind making such occurrences less of an oddity.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The end is near

The Lakers and Cleveland are battling for the best record in the NBA. A look at each team's stretch run:

LAKERS

Record: 56-14

Games left: 12

Home: 5

Away: 7

Thursday: at Detroit

Friday: at New Jersey

Sunday: at Atlanta

Tuesday: at Charlotte

April 1: at Milwaukee

April 3: Houston

April 5: Clippers

April 7: at Sacramento

April 9: Denver

April 10: at Portland

April 12: Memphis

April 14: Utah

CAVALIERS

Record: 57-13

Games left: 12

Home: 8

Away: 4

Tonight: New Jersey

Friday: Minnesota

Sunday: Dallas

Tuesday: Detroit

April 2: at Washington

April 3: at Orlando

April 5: San Antonio

April 8: Washington

April 10: at Philadelphia

April 12: Boston

April 13: at Indiana

April 15: Philadelphia

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