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Lakers are best in the West, second in the NBA again

LAKERS FYI

They had home-court edge in Finals last year because Cavaliers lost to the Magic. Situation is similar this season.

March 17, 2010|By Broderick Turner

The Lakers finished with the best record in the Western Conference last season and secured home-court advantage throughout the West playoffs.

That paid dividends after the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had the best record in the NBA last season, were upset by the Orlando Magic, allowing the Lakers to get the home-court edge in the NBA Finals because they had the second-best record in the NBA.

The Lakers are basically in the same spot as last season, holding the best record in the West at 50-18, second behind 54-15 Cleveland.

Because the Lakers were tested in the West playoffs last season, Kobe Bryant was asked if it's a big deal for them to have the top seeding in their conference.

"It doesn't matter," Bryant said. "You got to win games on the road too. You're not going to win every home game. You are eventually going to relinquish home court at some point. You wish that was not the case, but it happens."

The Lakers are 20-13 on the road this season, not quite up to last season's 29-12 mark.

Still, Bryant said he remains confident in his team's ability to perform on the road.

"I am, but it doesn't mean it's not trouble," Bryant said. "That Denver series last season scared … all of us — Houston too."

The Nuggets won Game 2 of the conference finals at Staples Center before losing in six games to the Lakers.

The Rockets were the only team in the playoffs that pushed the Lakers to a seven-game series.

"So, I am extremely confident," Bryant said. "But at the same time, I know how dangerous that is."

Lakers on a roll

They have won four consecutive games, three of them on the road.

This has happened after the Lakers lost their previous four games away from Staples Center.

The Lakers didn't practice Wednesday, Coach Phil Jackson preferring to give his players another day to heal their bodies before they practice Thursday in preparation for Friday night's game against the Timberwolves here.

"I feel like we're tightening it up," Pau Gasol said. "I think we're playing better defensively and executing better. We're aware that there are only 14 games left in the regular season. So it's a good time to step it up and play at the highest level."

Walton improving

Luke Walton still is out with a pinched nerve in his back, but still has found a way to stay involved.

Walton sits on the bench with a yellow notepad and takes notes, charting steals, deflections and other stats.

"When I'm on the staff, we're 3-0," joked Walton, who has been doing this for the last three games.

Walton said he has served in this role because special assistant Chuck Person hasn't been on the road.

"It keeps me sane, from going crazy over there," Walton said.

Walton has traveled with the team to get treatment on his back.

His plan was to work out Wednesday and try to practice Thursday.

"I'm getting closer to being back," Walton said. "I'm going to do some half-court stuff, which to me means I won't be able to sleep [Tuesday] night. That's how excited I am just to practice."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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