Lakers are flashy enough

Times Staff Writer

So far, it really is Lights Out at Staples Center.

Some of the swagger has been restored to the Lakers' home court, where games had been lost at a surprising, perhaps even numbing rate over the previous two seasons.

But a home-court authority has again been established, the latest indicator a 99-93 victory Sunday night over the New Jersey Nets that made the Lakers 8-1 at home this season.

Phil Jackson playfully joked about the "Lights Out" campaign when it was introduced at the start of the season, saying tongue-in-cheek that the increased, intensified lighting on the court might provide a home-court edge.

The campaign briefly took on a literal meaning Sunday when the lights actually went out for a couple of seconds with 4:18 left in the second quarter.

But the joke might now be on the opposing teams.

"It's the 'Lights Out,' man," Kobe Bryant said. "It sets a nice mood."

It also helps when a team passes the ball with alacrity, finding open players and collecting assists on a staggering 30 of 37 baskets.

Bryant's shot wasn't falling -- he had 19 points on eight-for-24 shooting -- but he atoned with a season-high 10 assists and only two turnovers.

Lamar Odom had 21 points and four assists. Luke Walton continued to be spot-on from long range, making both of his attempts from beyond the arc to improve his league-leading three-point accuracy to 68.4%. He had 10 points and six assists.

Smush Parker was also solid, with 13 points and a key steal against Jason Kidd with 47.9 seconds to play. Jordan Farmar looked like anything but a rookie, scoring 11 points in 16 minutes after sitting out two games because of a sprained ankle.

"The young fellow came in and played extremely well," Bryant said.

Adding to the buoyancy of the Lakers' locker room: Their next seven games are at Staples Center, including a designated road game Saturday against the Clippers.

"It's a good stretch for us here and we're excited about it," Bryant said. "We had a bunch of injuries and I know there was a lot of talk at the start of the season of us kind of starting slow out of the gate. That hasn't been the case. We've been playing extremely well."

They did start slow Sunday, trailing, 48-43, at halftime before turning things around in the third quarter.

After dominating at Staples Center with a 166-39 home record during Jackson's first tour as coach, the Lakers were 22-19 in 2004-05, including 1-8 down the stretch. They improved to 27-14 last season, a possible preview of what was ahead of them.

Not all the Lakers are ready to acknowledge it. The schedule gets less comforting with eight games away from Staples Center in December and nine in January.

The 36-5 home record of the 1999-2000 team remains a long, long way away. Odom didn't even want to answer a question about the apparent return of a home-court edge.

"Too early to say that," he said. "I'm not going to rev these teams up. It'll be a little better if we can get things going on the road."

Jackson punted as well.

"I'll speak more about that after this next week," he said. "We have a week full of games here from Sunday to next Monday and it continues on. If we continue at this pace, then we can talk about it."

The Lakers could do no wrong in the second half against the Nets, heeding the pregame words scrawled out by assistant coach Jim Cleamons on the locker-room whiteboard -- "Be aware of hungry dogs."

That would be the Nets, who had lost their last four games and were scratching for a road victory.

It looked good early for the visiting team, which took a 39-27 lead in the second quarter and leaned on Kidd for nine first-half assists.

But the Lakers collected themselves in the second half, Bryant pushing through a stream of double teams to find open teammates after he and Odom endured Jackson's exasperation in the first half.

Bryant was four for 12 at the time, Odom three for 10.

"I told [Bryant] that our shots were bad in the first half," Jackson said. "Him and Lamar were basically the two taking most of the shots that weren't good shots."

Then came the second half, 56 Lakers points and another home win.




* Kobe Bryant did not shoot well -- 19 points on eight-for-24 shooting -- but he had 10 assists, four in the third quarter as the Lakers made their way from seven points down to seven ahead of New Jersey.

* Kwame Brown had 13 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes, again providing muscle in a reserve role.

* The Lakers made 12 of 25 shots from three-point range, a solid 48% from beyond the arc. The Nets were four for 11 (36.4%).


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