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THE TIMES’ RANKINGS

GAME OF THE WEEK

LAKERS at NEW JERSEY

*--* No Team (Rec) Comment (last week) 1 SACRAMENTO (42-15) If you think that was good, wait ‘til next time when Kings bring varsity. (2) 2 MINNESOTA (43-16) What then? Top West teams are already good and most figure to get better. (1) 3 INDIANA (43-16) Oops: Artest’s thumb surgery may keep him out rest of regular season. (3) 4 SAN ANTONIO (39-20) Duncan’s injury is only thigh bruise or Spurs could start vacation now. (4) 5 LAKERS (37-20) We thought they were messed up before but that was just practice for this. (5) 6 NEW JERSEY (36-21) Surprise: Lawrence Frank’s 13-0 start ends in 13-point loss in Minnesota. (6) 7 DALLAS (38-20) Mavericks heating up late (18-4), as opposed to last season when they started hot. (7) 8 DETROIT (37-24) So far Rasheed Wallace is OK but Okur, whose job he took, pouts big time. (8) 9 HOUSTON (34-24) Baby steps: The Rockets were 17-14 Jan. 1 and are 17-10 since. (9) 10 MEMPHIS (35-24) Looks more like college as Brown plays 11 guys at least 17 minutes a game. (10) 11 NEW ORLEANS (32-27) Britney had longer honeymoon: In second season down to No. 26 in attendance. (12) 12 DENVER (32-28) Perhaps overconfident after I announced playoffs are a lock, just had 0-5 skid. (11) 13 MILWAUKEE (31-27) Van Horn averages 19 points in first five, coming off bench in four of them. (13) 14 PORTLAND (29-30) Mild Bunch or peace, it’s wonderful: 5-0 run takes Trail Blazers back into race. (14) 15 UTAH (30-30) It’s happening again: Jazz goes 4-1 with Collins, Pavlovic starting. (16) 16 CLIPPERS (25-32) On 35-win pace, as much as you can ask. Of course in the West, who cares? (19) 17 GOLDEN STATE (25-33) Kiss him goodbye: Dampier notes if he goes East, he can be an All-Star. (20) 18 NEW YORK (26-34) Houston missed 18 games all career, has now been gone for 19 and counting. (18) 19 MIAMI (25-34) Rookie no one knows about, Dwyane Wade, averaged 22 points in February. (21) 20 CLEVELAND (24-35) Kapono making 53% of his threes, which will keep him in league a long time. (22) 21 SEATTLE (26-32) Do you remember when the SuperSonics started the season 6-2? Neither can they. (17) 22 TORONTO (25-33) Say good night: With Carter, Rose out, lost Alvin Williams for season. (15) 23 PHILADELPHIA (23-36) Amid Saint Joseph’s excitement, 76ers could leave town without anyone noticing. (23) 24 BOSTON (24-36) So it begins: Ainge says he won’t move Pierce but no one’s untradeable. (24) 25 PHOENIX (20-40) If Suns were in East, they would have kept Marbury, finished in top four. (25) 26 WASHINGTON (18-39) Duel of future hopes (?): Wired Arenas feuds with attitudinal Kwame Brown. (27) 27 CHICAGO (17-42) Now Skiles rips Chandler: ‘Tyson frankly is not a highly skilled player yet.’ (26) 28 ORLANDO (17-44) Nervous time: McGrady, who can be free agent in 2005, turns down extension. (29) 29 ATLANTA (19-40) Stotts calls Wallace ‘positive influence while he was here.’ All one game. (28)

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When -- Today. Time -- 3:10 p.m. TV -- Channel 9.

The Lakers’ schedule actually sets up well for them, with four of the next seven road games against losing teams, followed by 12 of their last 16 at home. This is the hump game for this trip and, who knows, maybe their future.


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