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Ceballos Stays on Tear With 31 : Lakers: He sparks 114-97 victory over Mavericks with his sixth consecutive game of 25 or more points.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

He has been the constant as the Lakers have gone from hoop-blah to hoopla in the first eight games of the season, leading the team in scoring all but once, getting no fewer than 19 points on any night and averaging 27.1 along with 7.5 rebounds in all.

And he is not overly impressed.

“I think I can play a little bit better,” Cedric Ceballos said.

Happy enough with the tease, the Lakers can hardly wait. In the meantime, they’ll settle for more of the substandard work that came Wednesday night at the Forum, where Ceballos had 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting and 13 rebounds in a 114-97 victory over the Dallas Mavericks before 11,381.

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The Lakers, mired in frustration only a few days ago, have suddenly won three of their last four games, the last two in a 48-hour stretch against teams that came in 5-1. The latest, the Mavericks, went under early, fought back, then stayed down for good, despite a game-high 32 points from Jamal Mashburn.

Playing for the sixth time in nine nights, L.A. got big showings from Elden Campbell (22 points and 10 rebounds), Anthony Peeler (25 points) and Nick Van Exel (only two of nine from the field, but 12 assists against two turnovers).

The biggest, though, belonged to Ceballos, who became the first Laker since Magic Johnson in 1987 to score at least 25 points in six consecutive games.

“He’s the one who has played well every game, no question about that,” Coach Del Harris said.

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Said Ceballos: “Sometimes drastic times call for drastic measures. Nick has not been going real well. We just got AP [Peeler] back. Eddie [Jones] is out. I’m just trying to step up.”

There had already been promising signs marking the revival, or arrival, of the Laker offense--they had averaged 103.7 points the previous three games after only 94.3 points the first four--but this latest showing was confirmation: 35 points in the opening quarter, including a 24-4 run, to go up by 19, and 60 points by intermission, after getting 62 in the second half the night before against the Kings.

That was good for a 20-point cushion against the Mavericks--the same Mavericks who came in giving up only 94.2 an outing and were resting in Los Angeles the night before while the Lakers played at Sacramento.

Peeler already had 16 points, Ceballos 12 points and nine rebounds, eight of which came in the first quarter.

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The lead was at 23 early in the third quarter before Dallas joined the party, rallying to get within 71-66 with 4:55 remaining. The Lakers were up, 85-74, heading into the final period, then took control for good.

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Laker Notes

Corie Blount has quickly taken over what about 10 days ago was a three-man battle to become the first big man off the bench, a critical role for the Lakers after the retirement of Sam Bowie. Blount went into Wednesday’s game averaging 21.3 minutes, while Pig Miller was getting nine and Derek Strong eight, second fewest on the team after sitting out most of training camp as an free agent. Compounded with being out of shape when the Lakers signed him Oct. 26, that has probably played a role in Strong’s slow start. “That’s a factor,” Coach Del Harris said. “And working into a new system is a factor.”

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Among the 20 people nominated Tuesday for the Hall of Fame were three with Laker ties, one of which stretches all the way to the current team. The late Kresimir Cosic, a former star player and leading coach in Yugoslavia, was a fifth-round pick out of Brigham Young in 1973, but never played in the NBA. He did, however, coach Vlade Divac on Yugoslavian national teams for several years in the 1980s, just before Divac came to the United States. Since then, the Laker center has given Cosic, his idol growing up, credit for his development. “I was lucky--I had him as a coach,” Divac said. “It was great, for me and our team.” That team also included Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja. Two people who did play for the Lakers were also nominated for induction in 1996, Jamaal Wilkes and Gail Goodrich.


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