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Category: Trevor Ariza

Dissecting the final moments of the Lakers' 93-88 Game 4 loss to New Orleans

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Overlook Kobe Bryant's scoreless first-half performance. Forget about Chris Paul's triple-double effort. And accept the Lakers' nearly three-quarter stretch in which they didn't grab an offensive rebound.

There's plenty of blame to go around for the Lakers' 93-88 Game 4 loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday, forcing the Lakers to return to New Orleans for Game 6 Thursday and adding further stress to a series they should have controlled.

The Lakers could have secured an ugly win if not for numerous lapses in the final 3:30. There were certainly some key plays in those final minutes that went the Lakers' way, but too many of them were executed the wrong way. Below is a play-by-play account of what went wrong in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

3:23-2:57. After Derek Fisher hit two free throws to cut the deficit to 83-79, the Hornets' Paul hoped to take advantage of his superior quickness on Fisher in the next possession. But it didn't happen. Hornets center Emeka Okafor tried setting a high pick on Fisher, with Pau Gasol ready to switch on Paul. But Fisher fought through the screen and immediately marked on Paul. Okafor set a screen again at the top of the key, but Fisher spun around the screen and stayed in front of Paul. Once Paul dribbled right, Fisher cut off his penetration and then quickly backed so he wouldn't get beat off the dribble. After Paul dribbled to his left and between the legs, Fisher swiped at the ball. Paul picked up the loose ball, but he had to settle for an off-balance three-pointer that hit off the backboard.

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Lakers' 87-78 Game 2 victory over New Orleans Hornets featured a reliable supporting cast

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With the Staples Center crowd cheering during each swing of momentum as if it were an elimination game, Lakers forward Lamar Odom stepped onto center court.

He had just accepted the award as the NBA's sixth man of the year, but it's conceivable that the enthusiasm also represented a boost of support to a team that played Game 1 of its first-round playoffs match-up against New Orleans with the intensity of a regular-season game in mid-January. The scene provided a good illustration of Phil Jackson’s motivational tactic Wednesday during morning shootaround that the announcement of Odom's award a day before Game 2 served one specific purpose.

"The reason that they made sure Lamar had this award was this could be the last time he plays today in front of his whole team," Jackson said with a smile. "They want to make sure that award gets to them at the right time and to go out and prove them wrong."

Jackson was up to one of his usual Zen tricks, and the Lakers laughed at the tactic. But it provided the framework for how the Lakers wanted to change their play after a game featuring poor post play by Pau Gasol, Odom and Andrew Bynum, inconsistency in defending the pick and roll, a bench continuing its inconsistency and an overall effort that suggested the Lakers don't believe the playoffs have actually started.

The Lakers' 87-78 Game 2 victory over the New Orleans Hornets didn't exactly provide a turnaround from everything that had gone wrong in Game 1. Kobe Bryant, Gasol and Derek Fisher combined for 28 points with a seven-of-29 combined clip. The game also featured a third quarter in which both teams were scoreless for a 3:21 stretch. But there were plenty of areas that helped offset that, an encouraging sign for a team looking to take back control of the series.

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Thriller Ron might be gone, but there's video evidence to the contrary

Most of you have probably heard by now that Lakers forward Ron Artest has changed to jersey No. 15. That's right, his ode to Michael Jackson -- wearing No. 37 in honor of "Thriller" being No. 1 on the charts for 37 weeks -- lasted one season. Well, one very important championship season, mind you.

Although some were thrilled when Artest joined the Lakers' ranks, bringing hard-nosed defense, a supernatural intensity and at times otherworldly three-point shooting, many thought keeping Trevor Ariza might be better in the long run. And in the short term for team chemistry. Although time will tell if Artest wears out his welcome or his usefulness, such as getting into Twitter wars or missing a vast majority of his long-range shots, the Lakers have him to thank, in part, for another championship and some thrilling highlights.

So, in homage to Ron-Ron, MJ (the original, not Logoman 23) and the wonders of video editing and YouTube, I bring you "Thriller Ron," a video put together by a friend of mine, Matt Shaffer. He posted it during the NBA Finals in the spring. Some of you might have seen it. If so, I hope you enjoy it the second time around. For the rest of you Laker-holics, experience the transformation:

-- Dan Loumena

FYI: The video can easily be found on YouTube by searching for "Thriller Ron."

Doc Rivers' suggestion that Kendrick Perkins' injury resulted in Lakers' 2010 NBA Finals win proves unfounded

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Let the revisionist history begin.

The Lakers didn't win the 2010 NBA Championship because of Ron Artest's Game 7 heroics. They didn't win the 2010 title after becoming much tougher than in the 2008 campaign. And they didn't win after Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Artest and Sasha Vujacic made key shots late in the game. No, the Lakers are back-to-back champions simply because Boston center Kendrick Perkins tore the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee, causing him to miss the final three quarters of Game 6 and all of  Game 7. Or so that's what Celtics Coach Doc Rivers would like you to think.

"They still have not beaten our starting five," Rivers recently told ESPN 980's John Thompson, as provided by Sports Radio Interviews. "Our starting five against the Lakers starting five has a ring. Tell him [a Lakers fan] don't forget that. We will be back strong and Perk will be there next year if there's a Game 7."

I'm not the only one who's scratching his head and wondering if I saw the same game Doc saw. Silver Screen and Roll's DexterFishmore wrote, "Doc. If you're going to say something stupid, did it also have to be so inflammatory and grotesquely ill informed? One needn't be a Laker fan to be enraged by this. One need only possess a respect for historical accuracy and a memory that stretches back three whole years." Ball Don't Lie's Trey Kerby mused, "That's a very specific set of circumstances, but it's valid. That's a good team and the Lakers haven't beat them. But the thing is, that's not necessarily going to be the team that faces the Lakers, and even when they don't, the games still count. On the other hand, if Boston can petition the league to only count games in which the expected Celtics starting five takes the court, we might be looking at the first undefeated team in NBA history. It might only be for six games, but still."

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Unfortunately for the Celtics, games aren't played under perfect scenarios. Every team, particularly ones that play further into the postseason, have to deal with less-than-ideal circumstances regarding injury, fatigue, etc.  That's essentially what sports are, playing the best you can with the cards you're dealt. In no way am I downplaying Perkins' absence, but for Rivers to suggest he was the primary reason the Lakers won the title, as former NBA great Julius Erving also suggested to me at the ESPY's, proves absurd for various reasons.

Let's first deal with the logic that the Celtics still have not defended their title from 2008. That title defense stopped once Boston was eliminated in the 2009 East semifinals by Orlando. And the Celtics won in 2008 against the Lakers, which featured an absent Andrew Bynum and a limited Trevor Ariza. Leading up to the 2010 Finals, many members of the media, including myself, asked various Lakers how much different the 2008 campaign would have gone had they been fully healthy. With not wanting to appear as if they were downgrading Bynum's and Ariza's potential contributions, the Lakers made it clear they would've helped, but in the end, the players on the floor didn't execute properly. Likewise, Boston failed to do the same thing in Game 7, allowing the Lakers to dominate the offensive glass, 23-8, and holding the Celtics' perimeter players in Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to 14 of 42 shooting (33%).

So much for Rivers' pregame contention that the Celtics would respond to Perkins' injury with a rallying cry. But he was right about one thing before the game: "The game is going to dictate everything."

"We're here, and we'll be ready," he said before the game. "It is a little emotional losing Perk. He's so important to our team. But he's still in the locker room, he just will not be in uniform. And I think our guys in some ways, they want to do it for him. Listen, the game is going to dictate everything, and I don't know, but as far as our emotions, I think we're pretty much in check."

After the game, when he was asked how much Perkins' absence affected the Celtics, Rivers brought up "the starting lineup hasn't lost" argument while making it clear it didn't make or break the team.

"I can't say," Rivers said after Boston's Game 7 loss. "I know, and I told our guys this, the starting lineup still hasn't lost. It was a shame we didn't have that starting lineup tonight. But I told them, you're still yet to have a true chance to defend your title because Perk wasn't there. But listen, give the Lakers credit. They were terrific."

That much was true. Even with Bryant having an uncharacteristically poor Game 7, the Lakers came through. Despite Lamar Odom's NBA Finals disappearing act, the Lakers came through. And despite Bynum's significant limitations because of the torn cartilage in his right knee, the Lakers came through. The Lakers, frankly, went through similar adversities as did the Celtics and it revealed two things. The Lakers made adjustments, while the Celtics just provided excuses.

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Celtics Coach Doc Rivers recently suggested that the Lakers wouldn't have won the 2010 NBA Finals if Boston center Kendrick Perkins hadn't gotten injured. Credit: Elsa / Getty Images.

Photo: Celtics Coach Doc Rivers receives a Gatorade bath from Paul Pierce moments before winning the 2008 Finals, when the Lakers were missing Andrew Bynum. Credit: Winslow Townson / Associated Press

Caught in the Web: Details on Jerry Buss' induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame

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--The Times' Broderick Turner details what Jerry Buss means to the Lakers franchise.

--AOL Fanhouse's Sam Amick talks to Matt Barnes about why he was involved with slapping an assistant coach in a summer league game.

--The Orange County Register's Janis Carr summarizes what Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter could bring to the Lakers.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky explains why he maintains his belief that Trevor Ariza regrets leaving the Lakers.

--Fox Sports' Charley Rosen argues that the 1992 Dream Team was unstoppable.

--NBA.com's John Schuhmann talks to Lamar Odom, who says Team USA is still in "training camp mode."

--ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan talks to Oscar Robertson about the 1960 U.S. Olympic team, which featured Jerry West.

--ESPN.com features a quick rundown of West's accomplishments in the video below

--Fox Sports West's Matt Smith goes through Buss' track record.

--Former Times writer Steve Springer provides a detailed look at Buss' career for Lakers.com.

--Silver Screen and Roll's DexterFishmore gives out a report card to Pau Gasol.

--Forum Blue and Gold's Jeff Skibiski evaluates Shannon Brown's season.

Tweet of the Day: “Thanks you guys for giving me y’all blessing I promise I won’t let LakerNation down,” -- DevinEbanks3 (Lakers forward Devin Ebanks)

Reader Comment of the Day: "Mitch take a bow for a job well done. Signing Blake was good. Getting Barnes for the minimum was outstanding. And signing Theo....was...oh well like Meatloaf said, "Two out of Three Aint Bad". Yes the FA signings were good, but your best job was plucking Ebanks and Caracter without the benefit of a 1st rd draft choice. I doubt if either will contribute much this year, although Caracter offense and Ebanks defense is pro ready. Five years from now people will look back and wonder how these guys were available in the second round." -- LRob

-- Mark Medina
 twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers owner Jerry Buss is interviewed by ESPN's Stuart Scott after the team won the NBA championship by defeating the Boston Celtics. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Caught in the Web: Shannon Brown back with the Lakers

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--The Times' Broderick Turner explains why Shannon Brown sees the Lakers as the best fit.

--NBA.com's Frank Blinebury lists the Lakers as one of the top five teams to watch next season.

--Dime magazine's Austin Burton compares Kobe Bryant to Brett Favre.

--The Orange County Register's Janis Carr highlights Brown's contention that he didn't receive more lucrative offers from the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers.

--Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin has the details on Matt Barnes slapping an opposing coach during a Summer League game.

--NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper breaks down what Jerry Buss has brought to the Lakers' franchise.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy Kamenetzky recaps the main parts from Brown's press conference.

--Ball Don't Lie's Trey Kerby sits down with Lakers forward Lamar Odom for a Q&A on USA Basketball.

Lakers.com presents Brown's press conference in the video below

--The Daily News' Elliott Teaford reports that the Lakers expect to sign Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter before training camp starts.

--Silver Screen and Roll's C.A. Clark goes through the Lakers' 2010-2011 schedule.

--Forum Blue and Gold's Zephid provides a month-by-month rundown of the Lakers' season.

--The Painted Area's M. Haubs looks at Jerry Buss' decision to sign Magic Johnson in 1981 to a long-term contract extension.

Tweet of the Day: "This season I'm going for the kill against every team, player and etc...." -- RONARTESTCOM (Lakers forward Ron Artest)

Reader Comment of the Day: "So Shannon Brown took less money and re-signed with the Lakers because he recognized that the Lakers are on the cusp of history with another potential threepeat, and possibly the last year to be coached by Jackson. Smart guy, that kid. In contrast, Ariza went elsewhere for supposedly better opportunities and within a year has been traded to New Orleans. Poor guy, he shone so brightly in LA partly because he was playing with the best player in NBA who drew double teams.Take that out of the equation, and he's back to being an average joe." -- Seely_Iggy

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Shannon Brown says the Lakers were always at the top of his list when he was considering his free agent options. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times.

Boxer Andre Berto suggests Trevor Ariza may have regretted leaving the Lakers

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Over dinner a few weeks ago, boxer Andre Berto met up with former Laker Trevor Ariza to catch up. But one of the topics Berto made sure not to broach involved the Lakers' 2010 championship and whether Ariza ultimately regretted going to Houston.

"We didn't want to touch all that," Berto said in a brief interview before hosting Knockout Comedy Night on Tuesday at L.A. Live's Conga Room, an event that raised money for Haitian relief efforts. "We were just hanging out."

Still, Berto, a Lakers fan who said he's known Ariza well for a "few years now," sensed that Ariza missed his old stomping grounds.

"He's handling it," Berto said when I asked him if he had a sense on how Ariza felt about going to Houston and missing out on a second championship ring. "I don't know if he felt it was his best decision, but he's handling the situation."

I had hoped to get Ariza's take since he was a confirmed guest and planned to host the event with Berto, but he was a no-show. I had also hoped to clarify conflicting reports since his departure on what actually spurred the movement -- whether the Lakers' acquisition of Ron Artest essentially forced Ariza out or whether the Lakers had acted knowing that Ariza would sign with Houston. Nonetheless, The Times' Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner reported at the time that Ariza agreed to a five-year, $33-million deal with Houston after the Lakers came to terms with Artest. Ariza told The Times then that he was "happy with my decision," but that was before many events transpired.

There were the endless comparisons between Artest and Ariza, his argument via Twitter with Artest's brother, Daniel, and missing out on a championship ring. Even if Berto doesn't have a true gauge on how Ariza's felt about everything, it's at least telling he felt sensitive enough not to broach the subject.

-- Mark Medina

-- Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Boxer Andre Berto suggested Trevor Ariza may have regretted leaving the Lakers. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times.

Caught in the Web: Lakers pursuing Raja Bell

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-- The Times' Mike Bresnahan reports that free-agent guard Raja Bell will decide sometime next week whether he will play with the Lakers.

-- The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding asks readers whether Derek Fisher or Steve Blake will prove more valuable to the Lakers next season.

-- Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin predicts that Bryant will be very persuasive during his meeting with Bell.

-- NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper says the Lakers have gotten better this off-season.

-- The South Florida Sun Sentinel's Dave Hyde writes that the Lakers are pursuing Bell because of the Heat's size on the perimeter.

-- ESPN Los Angeles Brian Kamenetzky talks to Byron Scott about coaching Cleveland without LeBron James, Derek Fisher staying with the Lakers and the Showtime Era.

-- Ball Don't Lie's Trey Kerby highlights the various teams taking a look at Adam Morrison.

-- The Associated Press' Tim Reynolds highlights Dwyane Wade's belief that the Lakers are favored to win the 2011 NBA title.

-- Fox Sports' Charley Rosen predicts that Blake will have a significant impact on the Lakers.

-- Dime Magazine talks to former Laker Trevor Ariza in the video below about his off-season workouts.

-- The Daily News' Elliott Teaford predicts that Shannon Brown will no longer be with the Lakers if Bell joins the team.

-- Lakers.com's Mike Trudell explains that the team's main goal in summer league entails making sure that players know the triangle offense.

-- The Miami Herald's Michael Wallace reports that Scott remains on good terms with Pat Riley, the Heat president and former Lakers coach, despite the team recently acquiring James.

-- Forum Blue and Gold's Darius looks at what's next on the Lakers' off-season itinerary.

-- Silver Screen and Roll's Dexter Fishmore writes on SB Nation about how James' move to Miami will affect the Lakers.

Tweet of the Day: "Rick Fox just compared Derrick Caracter to Trevor Ariza on NBA TV. Whoops." -- mcten (ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin)

Reader Comment of the Day: "I’m not sure I approve of how Kobe researches free agent talent. First Ron Artest and now Raja Bell, two guys that he has had altercations with in the past. I’m afraid next year someone might decide they would like to impress Kobe and play with the Lakers, and they’ll just hit him over the head with a two by four." -- phred

-- Mark Medina
twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Kobe Bryant and Raja Bell have a contentious history together, but that won't stop Bryant from visiting Bell on Wednesday in an effort to persuade him to join the Lakers. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Caught in the Web: Lakers present a much different effort against Houston

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Game Stories

--The Times' Mike Bresnahan details how the Lakers played much better in their 109-101 victory Saturday against the Houston Rockets than the team did in Friday's game against Oklahoma City.

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding details Pau Gasol's season-high 30-point performance.

--The Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen details the Rockets' second-quarter letdown.

--NBA.com's Matt Miller outlines how the Lakers took advantage of injury-riddled Houston.

--The Daily News' Elliott Teaford observes that the Lakers' victory proved their embarrassing loss to Oklahoma City was just an aberration.


Notebooks

--The Times' Bresnahan reports that Lakers forward Lamar Odom doesn't believe players have tuned out Coach Phil Jackson, a sentiment he shared a day earlier with The Times' Broderick Turner.

--The Times' Turner says Rockets forward and former Laker Trevor Ariza has no regrets about joining Houston.


Columns

--The Times' T.J. Simers has a very interesting conversation with Lakers guard Derek Fisher about his struggling season and his future with the Lakers.

--The Orange County Register's Ding argues that the Lakers need their bench to listen more, especially Sasha Vujacic.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Arash Markazi reports that Jackson wants more from the team than just bouncing back from a loss.

--Even though Houston's defeat to the Lakers marked its fourth consecutive loss, The Dream Shake explains some of the positive developments on the Rockets' end.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky breaks down the Lakers' second-quarter run.

--Silver Screen and Roll chalked the Lakers' victory as a "pretty standard win for these Los Angeles Lakers, starting asleep, putting on a run to seemingly destroy any prospect of losing, yet then again very nearly losing the lead on the tail end. Nevertheless, it beats yesterday. Yawn. Playoffs, here we come."


More Lakers links

--The Times' Mark Heisler warns that any reports saying LeBron James will be going to (fill in the blank) after this season are all false, saying James won't make a decision until the NBA Finals are over.

--Among Fox Sports' 5 NBA Thoughts of the Week, one of them includes the prediction that the Lakers will stay on top in the Western Conference.

Tweet of the Day: "WORLD wants to see KobevsLeborn n the finals. this (MITE) b a finals preview yall turn n 2nite: check out magic/nuggets" -- Matt_Barnes22 (Orlando Magic forward Matt Barnes).

Reader Comment of the Day: "I can't get over the moon for a game against a band-aid torn version of the Rockets, but I certainly appreciated the vision on court after the débacle of the previous day." -- ZairaAmaterasu

-- Mark Medina

Photo: Kobe Bryant vies for a loose ball with Houston's Jermaine Taylor. Bryant's nine assists against the Rockets on Saturday night were two more than the Lakers had as a team in a 91-75 loss to Oklahoma City a night earlier. Credit: Dave Einsel / Associated Press

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com.

Lakers have chance to rebound with game tonight against Houston

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The Lakers can treat tonight's game against Houston as if the 91-75 loss Friday to Oklahoma City was just a bad dream and it never happened. Those wanting to approach the game that way may not want to look at the standings or read anything written about the Lakers. Unless, of course, it's at the L.A. Times website.

Or the Lakers (53-19) may acknowledge the reality and try to prevent the hangover from having a lasting effect. Good to note - taking long showers and drinking lots of coffee don't do anything, but gym workouts really do the trick. However the Lakers want to slice it, the fact the Lakers play tonight can be a really good thing and a really bad thing. 

It's the gift and the curse, what with back-to-back games.  You can literally move on to the next game either by building momentum off a good win or quickly forget about a bad loss by immediately correct mistakes. In the Lakers case, they obviously fall under the latter. The curse, of course, is that quick travel time and little practice aren't really substitutes to quickly erase bad habits, such as 18 turnovers, 39.2% shooting from the field and a season-low seven assists.  

But that's why they play the games. The Lakers are 7-3 this season on the second game of a back-to-back that features both contests on the road. And tonight's matchup provides a good opportunity to restore what at first appeared to be a good five-game trip. Or they can continue to sulk and then lose. Up to them.

This is a new format I'm trying as a way to bring everyone to quick speed about the Lakers upcoming opponent and so you know when the game starts so you can arrive on time for the chat. If you guys like it, we'll keep it. If you don't, well, I can just act like this never happened, kind of like how the Lakers want to treat their loss to Oklahoma City.

Team: Houston Rockets (36-35) 

When: Saturday, 5:30 p.m. PDT (KCAL-9) 

Record vs. Rockets this season: 2-1

Matchup history: Consider how the Lakers have done statistically against the Rockets this season compared to their season-long average in points (94, 102.4),  The reason for that discrepancy isn't because of a dropoff in offense in each matchup, but really just a severe dropoff in the third game, a Lakers; 88-79 victory on Jan. 5. The Lakers featured a different cast of characters in each game. In a 103-102 overtime win Nov. 3 at Toyota Center, the Lakers secured the victory after guard Derek Fisher made a late-gave steal (Kobe Bryant's 41 points also helped). The Lakers lost 101-91 Nov. 15 at Staples Center, that featured the team shooting 38.1% and Bryant going five of 20. Interestingly, this loss came two days after losing 105-79 to Denver, meaning Houston isn't the best opponent to have for a rebound game. And in the Lakers' 88-79 victory Jan. 5 to Houston, efforts from Andrew Bynum (24 points and eight rebounds) and Lamar Odom (17 points, 19 rebounds, nine assists) helped make up for Bryant's aggravated index finger that resulted in a nine of 23 clip and Pau Gasol's absence because of a strained left hamstring 

Outlook: The Rockets aren't the same team the Lakers met in last year's Western Conference semifinals that featured a seven-game series, a feisty Rockets team and an inconsistent Lakers. The Rockets' aren't just different because Trevor Ariza is with Houston and Ron Artest is with the Lakers. Houston isn't in playoff contention, so they may use other sources of motivation, such as wanting to unseat the defending champions and avoid their fourth consecutive loss for the first time since losing six in a row Nov. 13-23, 2007. Houston has also been plagued by injuries, including Shane Battier (hyperextended left knee) and Kevin Martin (sore left shoulder, has averaged 21.8 points in 17 games since he was acquired in a trade on Feb. 18), both whom are listed as day-to-day.

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times

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