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Things apparently were going too well for the Lakers

ON THE NBA

Bynum strains his Achilles tendon, just when he, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant were getting in sync.

March 19, 2010|By Mark Heisler

A funny thing happened on the Lakers' way back.

Well, it was funny in Cleveland, anyway.

Coming into Friday's game with a four-game winning steak and a high probability of making it five against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Human Snooze Alarm ("Let me sleep a little longer, OK, Ma?"), the Lakers blew a 13-point lead, found themselves trailing in the third quarter and lost Andrew Bynum, who left because of a strained Achilles'.

Oh, the Lakers won, 104-96, to make it five in a row, after all, so no harm was really done, assuming Andrew's back by the playoffs.

Coach Phil Jackson said afterward they're a "a little concerned," about Bynum, noting, "He'll probably miss a little time."

In Phil-speak, that suggests weeks, more than days.

On the other hand, what a homecoming it was for Phil's old assistant, Kurt Rambis!

A year ago, he was sitting next to Phil, helping him ease the Lakers toward the playoffs.

A year later, Rambis arrived with 14 wins, 55 losses and the knowledge he'll be home all post-season and can watch his old team on TV.

Like his mentor, Rambis wasn't worrying either, or, at least, showing it.

"I mean, I'm still young enough I can get up and pace the sidelines and rant and rave and do all that kind of stuff," said Rambis before the game, "but I find it's better learning from him [Jackson], if you keep your composure and seem poised in a situation, it helps the players stay poised.

"A young team like this, they have enough anxiety of their own without me adding to that anxiety. I let them play through their mistakes for the most part."

Aside from their mistakes, the Timberwolves are one of the shorter teams around, or were before starting newly acquired Darko Milicic at center.

Not that Milicic hadn't made a major dent in his seven seasons with four teams before arriving in Minnesota, but when Rambis started him in Utah, one of the Jazz players said he didn't realize Darko was still in the league.

As for the Lakers, they're one of the NBA's tallest teams, especially when they're making it work with their newly reinvigorated Bynum- Pau Gasol tandem, as they had in recent games.

Until then, Jackson conceded that both played better with Lamar Odom, which wasn't what Phil had in mind when he wrote Pau and Andrew's names in the starting lineup.

With Bynum playing harder in recent games, with or without touches, and Kobe Bryant began getting beginning to get both more touches, Pau and Andrew had combined to average 41 points, 20 rebounds and four blocks in the winning streak, essentially a 20-10 game apiece nightly with two blocks.

"I just think it's the emphasis that we've put on the players out there," said Jackson before the game. "Kobe has sacrificed some of his game to make that available and positive....

"There are going to be nights when Kobe again goes to be the featured guy in this offense and it's going to lay in his hands a lot of times. But it's great to have the ability to take a rest, not have to work as hard, drop it off to these big guys and let them go to work inside where it's higher-percentage things....

"Internally, Andrew believes he's an All-Star center, and he carries that conviction with him, which is a good thing," said Jackson before the game, noting Bynum's improved conditioning and enhanced weight training.

"It's still a goal of his to be there. I think it's something that's within his reach. It didn't happen this year but he's got it within his reach."

With 11 points and five rebounds in his first 18 minutes, Bynum had another 20-10 game within reach but that was as far as he got, before spraining his right Achilles' tendon.

Assuming Bynum's not gone too long, it'll be a night like a lot of others. At the moment, as five-game wining streaks go, this is one of the more somber ones.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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