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Lakers win eighth in row, take over top spot in West

SEATTLE (AP) -- On another night, maybe Kobe Bryant bites his tongue and shrugs off what he believes was an undeserved technical foul.

Up 31 points late in the third quarter, Bryant's ejection mattered little for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant scored 26 points, handed out 10 assists and got his first ejection of the season, in the Lakers 111-91 win over the SuperSonics on Sunday night, their season-high eight straight victory.

And his reward for such an efficient effort: watching the final 16 minutes from the locker room after getting tossed by Brian Forte.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm not going to comment on the official. I don't want to get fined anymore," Bryant said. "Watch the replay."

While Bryant's ejection became a secondary chapter, the main focus is the surging Lakers, who moved back on top of the Western Conference and now have their longest streak since winning 11 straight near the end of the 2003-04 season -- the last time they reached the NBA Finals.

More impressively, much of this charge has come on the road. Los Angeles won its seventh straight away from home finished a stretch with 12 of 13 on the road an astonishing 11-2.

A month ago, the Lakers led the West for two days. Now, with seven weeks left in the season, should it matter that they're back on top?

"From our standpoint, we have a home schedule that is pretty good," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Now we are in a situation where we can control our own destiny and that's important."

Pau Gasol added 22 points, and Lamar Odom had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Bryant didn't get to see his teammates finish this one off after picking up a pair of technicals from Forte with 4 minutes left in the third quarter and the Lakers leading 88-57.

Bryant was furious after not getting a foul while fighting for an offensive rebound, and appeared to keep jawing at Forte as Seattle raced the other direction, even though Bryant claimed he said nothing.

Seattle's Earl Watson missed a shot, but Mickael Gelabale grabbed the offensive rebound. With a lull in the action, Forte popped Bryant with a technical. Not content to leave it at that, Bryant followed Forte into the backcourt and moments later was given his second technical and an early exit.

"I told him, 'You shouldn't jump on junior. His dad might carry a grudge against you,'" Jackson said regarding veteran official Joe Forte, Brian's father.

Gelabale led the Sonics with a career-high 21 points, making 10 of 16 shots. He was about the only Sonics player to make anything. Seattle shot just 40 percent, punctuated by rookie Kevin Durant, who missed his first seven shots. A couple of fourth-quarter dunks made Durant's stat line look a little better as he finished with 15 points. Fellow rookie Jeff Green also had 15 for Seattle.

Seattle played without starting forward Chris Wilcox and newly acquired forward Donyell Marshall, both sick. Reserve swingman Damien Wilkins also didn't play after falling hard on his wrist Friday night against Portland.

"We missed guys, there's no question about that, but when you play a good team that's as good as these guys are, and playing as well as they are ... they had us on our heels initially and we were never able to respond," Sonics coach P.J. Carlesimo said.

Bryant's ejection might have made a difference, but the Lakers thoroughly and efficiently blew Seattle out in the first 20 minutes. Bryant, Gasol and Odom combined for 29 of the Lakers' 34 first-quarter points as Los Angeles built a 16-point lead. Seattle briefly trimmed the deficit to 36-27 early in the second quarter, but led by reserves Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar, the Lakers scored 13 straight points, holding Seattle scoreless for nearly four minutes, and taking a 49-27 lead.

"We're starting to understand it doesn't matter if we play at home or on the road, execution remains the same," Bryant said. "We've been doing a pretty good job executing, building up some big leads and playing from there."

The only reason Seattle didn't trail by 30 at halftime was a surprising 14 first-half points from Gelabale, a total that surpassed his previous season-high of 12.

Game notes
The Lakers' biggest lead came right before Bryant was ejected. ... The Lakers were without F Vladimir Radmanovic, who strained his right calf in Saturday's win over the Clippers. Radmanovic is day-to-day. ... New Seattle F Ira Newble played 12 minutes and scored two points in his debut.

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