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Jackson Not Looking for a Perfect Weekend

Coach Phil Jackson didn’t exactly warm to the concept that the Lakers, with victories in their next two games against the Philadelphia 76ers tonight and the New York Knicks on Sunday, would finish 27-3 against the East (.900), the highest-ever regular-season winning percentage against the East by a Western Conference team.

The mark is currently held by the 1971-72 Lakers, who went 33-5 against the East (.868).

“Well, first of all, I don’t expect to go undefeated against these two teams this weekend,” Jackson said after practice on Thursday.

“I don’t think we’re playing that well. I think both Philadelphia and New York are playing well. We may split these games; we may lose both of them, the way they’re playing.”

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Of course, not playing that well is wholly subjective these days, since the Lakers have won seven games in a row and 26 of 27.

But there is a theme here: Jackson said the Lakers couldn’t sweep a six-game trip in February, and his players were happy to go 6-0; he predicted the Lakers would lose against either the Knicks or Miami Heat in consecutive games this month, and his players eagerly pulled off a sweep.

And now the Lakers are in reach of clinching home-court advantage by early next week.

“The next three or four games we have coming up we really want to push as hard as we can, try to put this thing in the bag,” Kobe Bryant said. “It’s important that we continue to take it one game at a time.

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“And we’ve been proving Phil wrong all season long. . . . It’s just part of the season, you know? Kind of overachieve.”

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Bryant said he figures Allen Iverson probably will want some measure of redemption in tonight’s meeting after holding the league’s No. 1 scorer to 0-for-11 shooting in the second half of the Lakers’ 87-84 victory Feb. 20.

“I’m just going to go out there and do what I know to do,” said Bryant, who turned the tables after Iverson scored 41 on him last season. “Just play ‘D,’ see what we come up with. One possession at a time. . . .

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“Just focus--you constantly have to have your attention toward him. You can’t have a second when you relax or he’s gone.”

Said Jackson: “We expect Iverson to get his average [29.2, slightly ahead of No. 2 scorer Shaquille O’Neal]. That’s what he does.”

Can Bryant shut him down again?

“I don’t think Kobe’s that arrogant that he’s going to feel that way,” Jackson said. "[Wednesday] night he did a great job on [Vancouver’s Mike] Bibby and then we put him over on [Michael] Dickerson and it was tough for him. That’s the way it is. Some people have a good feel for some players.”

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Jackson has started to moderately cut down O’Neal’s minutes here and there, so does O’Neal feel rested these days?

“Yes, if this is what you call rest,” O’Neal said after playing 37 minutes against Vancouver. “I call what Glen [Rice] got, rest.”

Rice stayed home because of a stomach virus on Wednesday and rejoined the Lakers for practice Thursday.

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“That’s rest,” O’Neal said with a grin.

TONIGHT

vs. Philadelphia

7:30, Fox Sports Net

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* Site--Staples Center.

* Radio--KLAC (570).

* Records--Lakers 60-12, 76ers 42-29.

* Record vs. 76ers--1-0.

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* Update--The Utah Jazz ended the 76ers’ season-high seven-game winning streak Wednesday at Salt Lake City, but, with Iverson and Coach Larry Brown at least temporarily back in tune, the 76ers are pushing the New York Knicks and Miami Heat hard for a premium seeding in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

* Tickets--Sold out.


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