Saturday, March 13, 2010
Players embrace coming schedule
By Dave McMenamin
PHOENIX -- Ten out of the Lakers' final 16 games are on the road, but that's not discouraging to the team. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
"I kind of like [our upcoming schedule]," Pau Gasol said after Los Angeles ended a four-game road losing streak by beating Phoenix 102-96 on Friday. "I enjoy being on the road and the games are tougher and you get more challenge on the road. All of those games are tests for our ballclub."
Said Lamar Odom: "It's a perfect schedule heading into the playoffs. We just have to have a road mentality, win by all means, attacking mentality. Hopefully we kind of started that mentality tonight."
While the Lakers have said this season they are pursuing "everything that's in the pot" meaning the Pacific Division title, most wins in the Western Conference and best overall record in the league, Andrew Bynum set a concrete goal for wins the rest of the way.
"We need to start building because Dallas is chasing us and Denver is chasing us," Bynum said. "We need to start putting together a couple of little streaks here. There are like  games left in the season, there's no reason we can't try to get at least  of them and get to 60 [wins]."
Gasol gets physical but not flagrant
Gasol gave Suns forward Louis Amundson a hard foul across the face with 5:06 in the fourth and the Lakers leading by eight points. Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry was so enraged a flagrant foul wasn't called, he had to be restrained by his assistants at halfcourt while picking up two technical fouls and getting ejected from the game.
Afterward, Gasol said he meant Amundson no harm.
"I'm not a guy that gets flagrant fouls, at all," Gasol said. "I didn't mean to hit him in the face at all. I was trying to stop him [from] getting an easy layup. My intention was to hit him in his arm and I went across and got contact with his face. It's unfortunate, that's why right away I raised my hand, I helped him up and that was it."
Ron Artest joked he would have received a flagrant-2 foul whistled against him had he made the same play.
"Referees understand the kind of player that you are, the history that you have and when it's intentional and when it's not," Gasol said. "Obviously I wasn't trying to hit or hurt anyone. Things like that happen. You get hit in the face. I got hit in the face a few times even though the ball might not be in my hand. It happens, it's part of the game."
Amundson held no ill will.
"It was a hard foul, but I don't think he's a dirty player or anything. I think he was just trying to make a play on the ball," Amundson said. "It was really physical all night, so I wasn't surprised."
Kobe Bryant says he welcomes the sight of Gasol making those kinds of plays.
"Pau gave a hard foul tonight, which is what we like to see from him," Bryant said. "Not giving up layups and giving up easy opportunities. It's just playing hard. It's not playing dirty. It's just not giving up anything easy."
Gasol was last called for a flagrant foul Sunday in Orlando for striking Dwight Howard in the face during a shot attempt down low by the Magic's center.
Hand injuries continue to fester
Jordan Farmar played only three minutes after re-aggravating the sprained pinkie in his left hand when stripping the ball out of Jarron Collins' hands in the first half. Bryant and Shannon Brown, both bothered by right index finger and right thumb injuries, respectively, re-aggravated those ailments while going up for statement dunks in the second half.
"[My finger is] OK," Bryant said. "I can't hold the ball, so that's a little frustrating. ... It feels OK now."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said his players can't worry about protecting their fingers in situations that call for strong attacks to the basket.
"They've got to go in a direct line," Jackson said. "That's one of the principles of basketball. If you have an open space, you got to take it to the hoop."
Balanced scoring from starters
All five starters scored in double figures, led by Bryant with 21 and followed by Bynum's 18. Artest, Gasol and Derek Fisher all had 15.
Fisher credited Phoenix's zone defense with promoting ball distribution among the Lakers and leading to L.A.'s nine-for-25 mark from beyond the arc.
Walton steps in for coaching duties
Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons couldn't make the trip to Phoenix so Luke Walton filled in for him tracking offensive possessions in a notepad and sharing his summaries with the coaching staff and his teammates during timeouts.
"It's the first time I've ever done that," Walton said. "I guess we won because of my coaching. I was the good luck charm."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.