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Jackson’s Protests Accomplish Little

Times Staff Writer

The Lakers actually led by two, the beginning and the end of a short highlight reel as they came closer to the finality of their lowlight this season, a seven-game trip that just won’t quit.

Kobe Bryant wasn’t Kobe Bryant, Kwame Brown was Kwame Brown, and Coach Phil Jackson called a personal foul on the referees, Mark Cuban, and even his own decision-making, in a 102-87 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday at American Airlines Center.

On their 11th day away from home, the Lakers fell to 1-5 on their trip, with one game left tonight in Houston, at which point they could be caught by Utah for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

By then, Brown might no longer be a starter even though Chris Mihm could still be out because of a sprained right shoulder. Brown went scoreless and had four rebounds and four fouls in 14 minutes against Dallas, enough to incur the wrath of Jackson afterward.

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“That’s awful,” Jackson said. “He gave us a terrible game tonight. I had a short meeting with him the other day and told him I really valued the opportunity he was getting and he just didn’t give us any productive minutes at all.”

Bryant wasn’t very efficient either, making only five of 22 shots and scoring 24 points. Brian Cook had a career-high 28 points and Lamar Odom played despite torn rib cartilage, finishing with 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds in 39 minutes.

Three Lakers had technical fouls, another two had flagrant fouls and the team was charged with a technical when Jackson kept the players huddled on the sideline despite referees’ warnings to break it up after a timeout had elapsed with 1:08 to play.

It was a silent protest by Jackson, backed up by sharp words afterward and a dig at the Mavericks’ owner.

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“I thought it was really a poorly refereed ball game,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of pressure on the refs when they come here because Mark has them review the tapes and send them into the league. These guys are nervous Nellies when they come in to referee in this building. But they have to do a better job than they’re doing. That’s not acceptable.”

Brown and Andrew Bynum were called for the flagrant fouls, and Bryant, Odom and Devean George were called for the technicals.

Bryant smiled when asked about Jackson’s late protest.

“You eyeing my piggy bank too?” he said, suggesting he didn’t want to be fined by the league.

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He paused and then added, “It was cool.”

Bryant was cold during the game, which came seven weeks after he scored 62 points in only three quarters against the Mavericks at Staples Center.

He was double-teamed, trapped, hassled, even triple-teamed as the Lakers fell to 2-5 since he scored 81 against Toronto an eternity ago.

“That’s the defense we’ve been seeing this whole trip,” Bryant said. “We’ve been struggling. We’ve got to find a way to combat that.”

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The Lakers, who trailed by 20 points in the first half, finally found a way to take a lead, which hadn’t happened in 160 minutes of game time, more than 13 quarters since they led against Indiana in the second quarter Feb. 1.

Two free throws by Odom gave the Lakers a 66-64 edge with 2:56 left in the third, but the Mavericks took off on a 19-2 run and never fretted from there on the way to a 12th consecutive victory.

Unlike the last time the Lakers played here, Jackson didn’t even wander over to the scorer’s table and ask the enthusiastic public-address announcer if he was part of the cheerleading squad. But he did question his decision to sub Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic for George and Smush Parker shortly after the short-lived Laker lead.

“Strategically, it was a bad move on my part,” Jackson said. “Guys went in the ballgame and didn’t give us any help.”

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The Laker advantage lasted exactly nine seconds before Josh Howard tied the score with a nine-foot fadeaway.


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