Cleamons still wary of Rockets


The Lakers swept the regular-season series from the Houston Rockets, 4-0, and two of the games were won by double-digit margins.

The Lakers defeated the Rockets twice without Andrew Bynum (out because of a knee injury) and once without him and Lamar Odom (suspension). The Lakers are 5-2 against the Rockets in Houston over the last four seasons.

All that would make one think that the Lakers can handle the Rockets and that Houston will be an easy target when the Western Conference semifinal series begins Monday night at Staples Center.


Well, one better think again.

“We cannot approach this series like we know them,” Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons said Friday. “When you think this way, you’re really vulnerable.”

Cleamons has the job of scouting the Rockets, a team he has done advance scouting on all season, and he devised the game plan that brought the Lakers so much success against Houston this season.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and his assistants met at the team’s training facility Friday to talk, watch film and “marinate on some things,” Cleamons said.

The players had Friday off but will be back at practice today and Sunday in preparation for Monday’s night.

Cleamons will study, watch more film with the coaches and devise a plan they hope works.

The Rockets are a defense-oriented team, leaning heavily on Ron Artest and Shane Battier to play Kobe Bryant one on one.

The Rockets like to pound the ball inside to 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming. It’ll be up to Bynum to contend with Yao, with some help from his teammates at times.


“I don’t want to be content with the knowledge that I have on them,” Cleamons said. “They are going to be studying us the same as we are studying them. The question is, what are they going to do? We have to be prepared for them to do something.”

Ariza finds his shooting range

During the Lakers’ first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz, Trevor Ariza became a knock-down three-point shooter.

It’s not what Ariza is known for, but he had plenty of success, making 61% of his three-pointers (11 for 18) in five games.

What gives?

“They were leaving me open,” Ariza said. “If I have enough time to set my feet and a pretty good look at the basket, I think the chances of the ball going in are pretty good.”

With the Rockets’ defense keying on Bryant, Pau Gasol, Odom and perhaps even Bynum, Ariza may find himself open in this series as well.

“I’m ready to go,” Ariza said.

Staying in tune

By the time the Lakers play Houston on Monday, it will have been a week since they last played a game.


The Lakers are not worried about being rusty because they have been in this position before.

Last season, the Lakers swept the Denver Nuggets in the first round and were off for six days before they played in the second round.

The Lakers say they learned a lot from that experience.

“Just how to keep your mind into it,” Gasol said. “Keep your mind on the big picture and just keep working. Keep your mind-set strong and competitive and going to work when we need to go to work and getting ready for the next round.”