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Lakers taking this trip at a good time

January 19, 2011|Mike Bresnahan

It was a trip to be acknowledged, if not reckoned with, when the schedule was released, but the Lakers' upcoming visit to Dallas and Denver has turned into a trip of turmoil, luckily for the Lakers.

The Mavericks have lost six consecutive games thanks to a cumbersome injury list, and Denver is under constant "Carmelo Watch," the NBA equivalent of an always-on-the-horizon storm in the snowy state.

Talk about playing a pair of teams at the right time. The Lakers' 5-5 mark against teams with winning records this season is hardly remarkable, but they could do some resume padding, on the road no less, against two teams that might not have the same psyche of a month ago.

The Mavericks (26-14) were stunned when they lost Caron Butler for the rest of the regular season because of a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee and staggered when Dirk Nowitzki missed nine games because of a sprained right knee.

Dallas has lost nine of its last 11 and has fallen from second to fifth in the Western Conference.

"[That's] the one team we were looking forward to playing a month ago, thinking how good they were," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "They're still going to be a difficult team, but this is a team that's slid in the standings considerably in the last three weeks due to injuries."

Nowitzki expected to change the Mavericks' fortunes when he returned two games ago. It hasn't happened. Dallas lost to Memphis by 19, Detroit by 14 and plays the Lakers on Wednesday.

"It's a big game for Dallas because they've been struggling," Kobe Bryant said. "They're looking for one to kind of kick-start them. We all know how well they play us up there, so it should be good."

The Lakers are 10-10 in Dallas since 2000.

Then there are the Nuggets, who play the Lakers on Friday.

There are Carmelo Anthony updates almost daily, including the latest rumblings that the New Jersey Nets wanted to talk directly to Anthony about acquiring him.

Anthony can become a free agent in July and has been rumored to be involved in a deal with the Nets or the New York Knicks for weeks, if not longer. He would presumably sign a three-year, $65-million contract extension with his new team as part of the trade agreement.

The unpredictable Nuggets (23-17) remain on a treadmill until the Anthony situation is resolved. They are on a 3-4 slide, with one-sided losses to Sacramento and the Clippers two weeks ago, though they walloped Miami last week, 130-102.

"Denver is a team in turmoil right now," Jackson said. "They're playing pretty well but you never know when that trade's going to come off. Everybody's kind of sitting on a ledge waiting to jump."

The Lakers' last visit to Denver didn't end so well for them -- a 118-112 loss in November.

The Lakers (31-12) have played only five road games against teams with winning records. Ready or not, they're about to increase it to seven, perhaps with two more victories thrown in as well.

"It's just about going out there and doing the job," Bryant said.

Not thunderstruck

Bryant had 21 points in the Lakers' 101-94 victory Monday over Oklahoma City, but his seven assists seemed more appealing to him.

"I tried to make it a little easier for Pau" Gasol, Bryant said. "Instead of him just constantly banging and banging in the post, I'd penetrate and have him slip out and get some easy shots. All in all, I felt we read their coverages very well, got penetration and kicked it out and got open looks."

The Lakers shot an impressive 50% against the Thunder, helping expunge the memory of their gaffe against the Clippers the previous night.

"It's important to bounce back," Gasol said. "It was our third game in four nights but we had enough energy, enough legs to compete well and beat a really good Oklahoma team."


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