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Road leads to Texas for two games for Lakers

They will play the Spurs and Mavericks back to back and probably without Gasol, who is still recovering from a hamstring injury.

January 12, 2010|By Broderick Turner

Reporting from San Antonio — It is called the Texas two-step.

It is when NBA teams venture into this state and face two quality opponents in San Antonio and Dallas.

The Lakers will see firsthand how daunting a task it is to beat the Spurs and the Mavericks on the road and in back-to-back games.

For the first time this season, the Lakers will play the Spurs tonight. Then on Wednesday they play a Mavericks team bent on revenge after getting routed by the Lakers, 131-96, last week at Staples Center.

All indications are that the Lakers will be without forward Pau Gasol for both games.

Gasol, who has missed four straight games because of a strained left hamstring, worked out on a treadmill but didn't practice Monday. Gasol is listed as doubtful for the San Antonio game, although he is on the trip with the Lakers.

"The Texas trip is always one of the toughest to play," said Kobe Bryant, who has experienced some tough shooting in his last three games because of pain from his fractured finger. "We're looking forward to it."

And for a variety of reasons.

The Lakers have lost their last three road games, two by double digits.

The Trail Blazers ran up a 20-point lead before beating the Lakers by nine points Friday night, which was the ninth consecutive time Los Angeles had lost a game in Portland.

The Clippers, who were the designated home team in the Staples Center both teams share, withstood a late push and defeated the Lakers by 11 points Wednesday night. Last month, the Phoenix Suns also ran by the Lakers, winning by 15.

For the season, the Lakers are 8-5 on the road, a good but not great record.

Now come San Antonio and Dallas.

"I think we've definitely got to come out and be aggressive. It just can't be one of the games where, since we haven't seen [the Spurs], that we go out and try to feel them out," guard Shannon Brown said. "We've got to be aggressive and try to make them . . . make adjustments."

Next week, the Lakers leave for an eight-game, two-week trip that has stops in Cleveland and Boston. Even though that trip looms, the players are saying that they are not looking ahead.

They know the Spurs will run their offensive sets and be strong on defense.

And they know the Mavericks beat them early this season at Staples Center.

"We're just planning on playing San Antonio right now and getting off to a good start," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "We've lost a couple on the road now and we have to figure out some of the things we have to do."

The same can be said of Bryant.

He has made just 24 of 88 shots in his last three games, a 27.3% performance, and has experimented with a splint to protect an avulsion fracture on his right index finger.

Bryant has played with the splint off but plans to wear it again on this trip, and doesn't plan on sitting out any games. His contention is that the injury can't get any worse.

"It's already broken," Bryant said. "The swelling just comes, then it goes. I just try to treat it and stay on top of it."

Bryant will try to make the necessary adjustments in his shooting, and then see whether that can help the Lakers break a three-game road losing streak.

San Antonio and Dallas "are two of the toughest places to play," Bryant said. "I'm looking forward to see how we respond."

Etc.

Forward Luke Walton, who has not played in a game since Nov. 13 because of a pinched nerve in his back, practiced on the court and went through a sequence of drills with the Lakers on Monday. He is making progress but isn't ready to play yet.

Ron Artest, who hit his head on the court when he fell in the first quarter of Sunday night's game and experienced some dizziness and asked out of the game, was doing fine Monday. Artest, who missed five games because of a concussion, is expected to play on the two-game trip.

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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