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Lakers look good inside and out
It wasn't quite Magic to Worthy, but the Lakers did pretty well for themselves Sunday night.
They threw on throwback jerseys from the 1987-88 season and then tossed aside the Golden State Warriors, 123-113, Sunday at Staples Center.
Andrew Bynum tied a career high with 20 points and Kobe Bryant had 28 points, eight assists and six rebounds while showing no hangover effect from a bruised left shoulder.
Bynum wasn't even a year old when the Lakers won the 1988 NBA championship, but his value is becoming more and more apparent to a team that improved to 12-8 with a third consecutive victory.
"He's playing excellent ball," Bryant said.
The game plan against the small-but-spry Warriors was simple, really.
The Lakers imposed their will by feeding Bynum over and over. He made a career-best nine field goals in 14 attempts and almost doubled his typical shot total. Ronny Turiaf wasn't forgotten either, scoring 10 points in his return after sitting out two games because of a concussion.
Along the way, the Lakers beat the Warriors for a ninth consecutive time and for the 14th time in the teams' last 15 meetings.
Once again, small ball couldn't top tall ball.
"I thought that was one of the keys, to have Andrew and Ronny effectively tag-team with each other out there," Coach Phil Jackson said.
It was interesting to see how the Lakers would play against the surging Warriors, who had been on an 11-2 tear after starting the season 0-6.
Jackson wasn't thrilled with his players at Friday's practice, acknowledging he "upbraided them a little bit" because they didn't arrive with the energy he wanted.
On Sunday, the Lakers were without Luke Walton (sprained ankle), but Trevor Ariza was active at small forward, scoring 11 points and continually getting to the line, making seven of 10 free throws.
There was also that Bryant guy.
As if to underline the point that his shoulder felt fine, he dived into the seats twice in the first half, including a successful foray into the end of the Lakers' bench to save the ball after poking it free from Warriors center Andris Biedrins.
"You've got to do what you've got to do," he said with little more than a shoulder shrug.
The Lakers also shook some life into their Sunday nights, which had been a time of recent mishaps. They were stunned in a lackluster home loss to New Jersey on Nov. 25 and were beaten by a better Orlando team Dec. 2.
Thanks to a better second half, the Lakers were the better team against Golden State.
The first half was whisker-close, the Lakers taking a 60-59 lead as the teams rattled off 10 lead changes. Then the Lakers began to push away from the Warriors with a 32-point third quarter and a 31-point fourth.
Jackson said Kwame Brown could be back by next weekend, which sets up an entertaining thought -- will Bynum keep starting at center?
There's at least one vote for yes.
"I'm having much more fun, actually," Bynum said, "because anything beats riding the pine, you know what I mean?"
The Lakers now have another unusual three-day break between games. They will not practice today, but will return to their training facility Tuesday and Wednesday before playing host to San Antonio on Thursday.
They won't get a push-the-pace, shoot-at-will opponent like Golden State, which took a staggering 33 three-point shots Sunday.
Instead, the Lakers will see the same methodical defense-driven bunch that beat them handily in San Antonio, 107-92, on Nov. 13.
"They're a team that prides themselves on their defense," Bryant said. "It's going to be a real test to see how much we've improved since the last time we played them."
Until then, the Lakers have three days to savor a victory, yet another, against Golden State.
Perhaps Warriors point guard Baron Davis summed it up best.
"They are a big team," he said.