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Van Exel Finds Range in Canada : Pro basketball: Point guard shakes his shooting slump with 25 points in Lakers’ 114-91 victory over Grizzlies.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It looked at times as if Nick Van Exel was shooting a bowling ball, so he tried lifting weights.

It looked as if he had no rhythm, so he listened to music.

It looked as if he couldn’t make a jump shot during a game, so he skipped extensive shooting during pregame warm-ups.

Van Exel had tried everything the last two weeks, most of all his patience. But Friday, on a rainy and dreary night as the Lakers made their first trip north of the border, he provided the spark, finally pulling out of his slump to score a game-high 25 points in a 114-91 rout of the Vancouver Grizzlies before 19,193 at General Motors Place.

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Around freezing himself coming in, at 31.9% to be exact, Van Exel went 10 of 16 from the field. He was also three of nine on three-point baskets, but two of the misses were to beat the shot clock.

“I’ve been feeling good as far as thinking the shots were going to go down for me the last couple games,” he said. “Tonight, it finally did go down for me.”

About five minutes of game-condition shooting with assistant coach Larry Drew--another change to the pregame ritual--may have been the solution. At least it seemed as good an answer as any.

The truth, of course, is that it was only a matter of time before this night came.

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“I don’t think it ever left him,” said Sedale Threatt, Van Exel’s backup. “You’ve got to remember, Nick’s still a young player. He’s got to keep reading the defensive schemes. Tonight, he read them well. He was playing loose.”

The Lakers seemed to be loose as a group in putting together their first three-game winning streak of the season and improving to 5-4 heading into Sunday’s game against the Clippers at the Forum. Van Exel had only five assists, but, with Threatt getting seven, the Lakers had 28 against only 11 turnovers.

The Grizzlies, coming off a loss to the Clippers the night before in Anaheim, led by as many as eight points in the first quarter and six in the second, but there was still reason for encouragement for the visitors. Van Exel was making baskets.

Always a streak shooter, he came in at only 23.1% (nine of 39) in the previous four outings while failing to reach double figures. He even went the last three without so much as a trip to the line.

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Then Van Exel opened against Vancouver by making his first two tries. Midway through the second quarter, his lay-in finally got the Lakers even again. A three-point shot came soon after.

By halftime, Van Exel had 13 points on six-of-nine shooting, and the Lakers had a 53-49 lead. His three-point basket to open the third quarter made for a seven-point cushion and sparked a 13-5 rally, giving the team--and the point guard--some breathing room.

Whatever life remained in the Grizzlies, losers of seven in a row after the 2-0 start, was gone by the end of the quarter. The final dagger came, fittingly, from Van Exel, a running three-point bank at the buzzer for an 88-70 cushion.

“It feels good now,” Van Exel said. “But if I can maintain it, it’ll feel great.”

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