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Coach Phil Jackson and his team want to look ahead, not behind

Lakers’ lead in the West has shrunk as Dallas and Denver have surged, but Jackson and players say the team needs to focus on its own game more than the standings.

March 14, 2010|By Broderick Turner

Don't look back, even if someone is gaining.

That's the approach the Lakers are taking.

They maintained that they are not concerned about the Dallas Mavericks, who began play Saturday three games behind the Lakers for the best record in the Western Conference, or the Denver Nuggets, who started the day 3½ games behind the Lakers.

The Lakers maintain that it's all about them — how they perform, what they do.

So, they insist, they aren't feeling pressure from a Dallas team that had won 13 consecutive games.

"No, we feel the pressure of not playing well," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "That's something that bothers us."

The Lakers have muddled through a couple of victories. They snapped a four-game road losing streak Friday in Phoenix, three days after a ragged two-point home win over Toronto.

The team has recently lost some ground to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the race for best record in the NBA. At 51-15, the Cavaliers hold a three-game lead over the 48-18 Lakers, who also lost both regular-season games to Cleveland.

"I think more than anything else, we want to keep pace with Cleveland," Jackson said. "That's the thing that we've really been disappointed in."

The road continues

Finally, the Lakers played a game on the road that was uplifting in their eyes. Now to see whether the 102-96 victory at Phoenix was a one-game aberration or the start of a more positive trend.

The Lakers are 18-13 on the road, and seven of their remaining nine games this month will be away from home, starting Monday at Golden State, followed by a Tuesday game in Sacramento.

"This is a perfect schedule headed to the playoffs," Lamar Odom said. "You have to have a road mentality — a win-by-all-means type of mentality. Hopefully we kind of started that mentality [Friday]. You just keep going. Keep running through people until they quit, until they stop."

The Warriors and Kings were a combined 39-91 before Saturday, but the Kings have played the Lakers tough twice this season, losing one game in Sacramento in overtime and another on a last-second shot by Kobe Bryant at Staples Center.

Jackson gave his team Saturday off to rest. The Lakers will be back at practice Sunday.

Pau Gasol said it's time for the Lakers to "step it up" on the road. That they play so many upcoming games away from home is not a major issue, he said.

"I kind of like it," Gasol said. "I enjoy being on the road. Games are tougher and we get more challenged on the road. All of those games are tests for our ballclub. I wish we could have done a little better in the games that we have lost. But we still have many more games coming up that are going to be very hard and we're going to have to prove ourselves and play well."

Working back-to-back

Starting with the Monday-Tuesday games in Oakland and Sacramento, the Lakers have four sets of back-to-back games left in the regular season.

The Lakers, who will play 20 back-to-back games this season, are 10-6 in the first game and 10-6 in the second game.

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