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Lakers feel it against Mavericks, but Pau Gasol feels only pain

Lakers finally play a complete game in routing their chief Western rivals, 131-96, but lose All-Star forward Gasol to a hamstring strain.

January 04, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan

So this is the best the Western Conference has to offer, which could cause problems from now until June.

As in, when will the excitement actually begin for the Lakers?

They blew out the Dallas Mavericks, 131-96, Sunday night at Staples Center, reaffirming the fact they are the West's dominant team while brushing away a slew of not-so-stellar efforts in recent weeks.

Andrew Bynum had his most complete game in a month, collecting 19 points, five rebounds and four assists, but it wasn't entirely a clean victory.

Pau Gasol left the game after suffering a strained left hamstring with 7:12 left in the first quarter. He sat out the Lakers' first 11 games because of a strained right hamstring and will undergo further medical testing today, including an ultrasound exam, at which time the Lakers will issue a timetable on his return.

Gasol went to the locker room after feeling a twinge in his hamstring and left without talking to reporters after the game.

"Any time Pau has an injury, we're very concerned," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "We thought that the initial one in the preseason was very slight because . . . there was no significant impression that he'd have a pull. So obviously it's something that we have to take seriously."

Gasol was averaging 17.3 points and 12 rebounds a game before Sunday. If he's sidelined Tuesday against Houston, the Lakers will presumably pay more attention down low to Bynum, who made all eight of his shots against Dallas, the best shooting night for a Lakers player with at least eight attempts since Nick Van Exel was nine for nine in November 1997 against the Vancouver Grizzlies.

"I'm just going to keep trying to build on it," Bynum said. "I was getting lower position and then once that happens and I'm close to the rim, I feel more comfortable out there."

Bynum didn't get a gauge for how Gasol felt after the game.

"I didn't even get to see him. He left out of here real quick," Bynum said. "I'm comfortable with or without him [in a game]. It's just I'm more needed without him, so my focus goes up a little bit, you know what I mean?"

The actual game, if it can be called that, produced the Lakers' largest margin of victory in the regular season against Dallas, topping a 124-91 decision in December 1993.

And what of the West? The Lakers (27-6) now lead the Mavericks by 4 1/2 games and No. 3 Portland by six.

Dallas beat the Lakers in the second game of the season, 94-80, but there were no signs of that team Sunday. The Mavericks, who played in Sacramento the night before, made four of their first 27 shots (14.8%), were down 28 in the second quarter and were a wreck throughout the night.

On one play, Dirk Nowitzki thought he was fouled, stayed down on the court in a silent protest and inadvertently tripped teammate Tim Thomas as the Lakers moved the ball in the other direction, DJ Mbenga completing the sequence with a layup.

Jordan Farmar tied his career high with 24 points and Lamar Odom had 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who shot 63.4%, their best shooting night since a 66.2% effort in January 2008 against Philadelphia.

Bryant had 15 points and eight assists and is now tied with former New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing for 15th on the NBA's career scoring list (24,815 points).

Before the game, there were questions about what had been plaguing the Lakers, who hadn't had an impressive victory since . . . since . . . since a 24-point victory Dec. 9 against Utah?

"Perhaps without Ron [Artest] we're not quite as energetic or as active as we should be or as effective as we have been in the past," Jackson said.

Artest sat out a fifth consecutive game because of a concussion, but the Lakers were energetic, active and effective against Dallas. A few days into January, it looks as if the West is the least of their worries.

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