Lakers 108, Warriors 103

This is perhaps overdue for some of you, but the time has come to ask if Vladimir Radmanovic is going to get it together. If you got up during the third quarter Monday, you might have missed the 2:49 Radmanovic played in the second half. This follows his 43-second run in the second half Saturday against the Hornets.

I bring this up because Radmanovics window of opportunity is going to shrink big-time as soon as Lamar Odom returns from his sprained knee ligament, which the Lakers are hoping will come Friday against Charlotte. Even if he isnt logging 40 minutes right away, Odom is going to take away significant playing time.

Remember when Odom first got hurt on Dec. 12? Lakers coach Phil Jackson decided to start Radmanovic in his place. That experiment ended after four games. Here are Radmanovics numbers in the 21 games since Odom was injured: 7.1 points, 39.8 percent shooting, 18.6 minutes.

Radmanovic finished scoreless with two turnovers against Golden State, missed all four shots he took and played 13:22. He checked in with 9:24 left in the third quarter after Brian Cook picked up his fourth foul. I looked at the writer sitting next to me and said, “Looks like were going to see a lot of Vlad.

Not so much, after all. Radmanovic missed a 3-pointer and bricked a shot after Kobe Bryant gave him the ball cutting the lane. Maybe it was a coincidence, but the Warriors started a 15-1 run with Radmanovic on the floor. He was called for his second foul as Baron Davis drove to the basket with 6:35 left.

Then came a “space cadet moment. Maurice Evans headed to the scorers table as the players lined up for free throws. Radmanovic was so slow to realize Evans was coming for him (with Luke Walton sliding over to play power forward) that Evans almost had to tell him face to face.

He didnt play again the rest of the night. Jackson wasnt asked about Radmanovic but did include this comment in his postgame remarks: “I felt Vlade didnt play with a purpose I was looking for.

Radmanovics struggles seem to go deeper than a player with a hand injury. He has had moments this season – – the 3-pointers he hit against San Antonio, as one example – – but you have to wonder what his role is going to be once Odom and Kwame Brown return.

Brian Cook will come off the bench and Jackson will get Ronny Turiaf minutes at power forward. Jackson acknowledged that he played Radmanovic ahead of Cook earlier this season for the sake of familiarizing him with the triangle offense. Will that be the case again?

If you want scoring off the bench, you go with Cook. If you want toughness, you go with Turiaf. What do you do with Radmanovic? Now remember that the Lakers made a $30 million investment in Radmanovic through the 2010-2011 season. Thats so far in the future, Barack Obama could be in his third year as president.

* * *

Give some credit to Sasha Vujacic for drawing a big three-shot foul just before Bryant returned in the fourth quarter. Instead of being down six points, the Lakers only were down three after Vujacic hit the free throws. He sold the foul well, too, falling to the floor after contact was made.

It helped atone for a turnover Vujacic had at the end of the first quarter. The Lakers were trying to set up for a final shot with Bryant resting on the bench when Baron Davis stole the ball from Vujacic. Davis flipped in a lay-up at the other end an instant before the buzzer sounded.

It also was important for the Lakers starters to come back strong when they returned to finish the first half. That has been a trouble spot the past couple of games but the starters erased an eight-point deficit. Bryant was aggressive at both ends, attacking for a reverse lay-up and stealing a pass as the Lakers played pressure defense.

* * *

Andrew Bynum finished with 10 points – – all in the first quarter – – a career-high 15 rebounds and four blocks. He did a little studying before the game as well.

“I looked at film last night and how (Hornets center) Tyson Chandler was rebounding against us and I kind of studied the way he was doing it. I tried to mimic it, Bynum said. “What he does is that he watches the ball, he always keeps moving.

“Sometimes I get kind of stagnant out there. Im just kind of standing straight up and my guy pretty much has his arm on me. Today I was moving around and trying to watch the ball and it worked out for me.

* * *

Funny moment before the game: Bryant was putting on his Western Conference All-Star jersey to tape a TV promo for the game. It was a red-and-gold uniform, which led Bryant to joke, “I just got traded to the Cavs.

Ive also been impressed at how rookie guard Jordan Farmar doesnt shy away from his teammates. After coming through late – – but only after missing his first eight shots – – Luke Walton was surrounded by reporters at his locker.

One question to Walton was what got into him late. Farmar shouted from the next locker over, “Jesus Christ.

* * *

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

There has to be a middle ground for the Lakers, between Kobe Bryant taking over or getting everyone involved, between Luke Walton missing every shot before scoring the games two biggest baskets, between winning at home and losing on the road.

All the same, the Lakers had to like where they stood Monday night after beating the Golden State Warriors 108-103 at Staples Center to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season.

Bryant scored 42 points – – 14 in the fourth quarter – – on the one-year anniversary of his 81-point game against Toronto. It was Walton, though, who probably made history with the greatest 2-for-10 shooting game the NBA has ever seen.

Walton missed his first eight shots of the game and was so tentative in the third quarter that he passed the ball on to teenage center Andrew Bynum with a tick left on the 24-second clock rather that put up a shot himself.

But Walton came back in the fourth quarter and hustled his way into two baskets in the last two minutes. The first came after Maurice Evans had his drive blocked and Walton chased down the loose ball and pushed in a lay-up.

On the next possession, Walton came up with the offensive rebound after Bryant missed a 3-pointer. He tossed in a shot with 1:11 remaining as the Lakers went in front 103-101. It proved to be the go-ahead basket of the game.

“I had a long break from the third to the fourth and I kind of settled down a little bit and got back under control, Walton said. “I got a couple bounces that came my way and once I put the ball through the hole once, it kind of got a little easier.

Walton finished with eight points, seven rebounds and five assists, never mind that he couldnt hit a shot in the first 29 minutes he played.

“He was carrying his heart on his sleeve out there, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “He thought everybody was going to cry for him for a second. He couldnt get anything to go in for him and then he got a couple baskets at the end, which kind of redeemed his night.

“That was good. We always say to players, `Dont let your offense affect your game, but its hard not to in this game.

Jackson showed confidence in bringing Walton back with 5:51 left. Golden State, meanwhile, lost guard Baron Davis to a calf injury with 4:44 to play. Davis replacement, Sarunas Jasikevicius, had two turnovers in the last 90 seconds.

The Lakers improved to 19-4 at home after disappointing losses to Dallas and New Orleans on the road. They beat Golden State for the sixth consecutive time since Jacksons return as coach and overcame a season-high 24 turnovers.

“Were a young team and we have ups and downs, Walton said, “but once we start going down, we correct it quickly and we get back on track.

If everything goes accordingly, the Lakers also played their final game without injured starters Lamar Odom and Kwame Brown. The two will practice today in the hope of returning Friday against Charlotte.

Jackson said he was glad the injuries didnt prove “insurmountable but said of bringing Odom and Brown back: “Its an adjustment period obviously for us. We hope we can meld them together.

Bryant returned with 9:23 to play and scored nine straight points. He drilled jumpers over Mickael Pietrus and got to the line by drawing a fifth foul on Pietrus. For the night, Bryant went 11 of 22 from the field and 16 of 19 at the foul line.

Golden States Al Harrington, acquired in a trade from Indiana last week, described Bryant as a “one-man wrecking crew. The Lakers trailed by as many as six points in the fourth quarter, with Bryant saying he knew something had to be done.

“I had to kind of take control of the game a little bit, Bryant said. “I couldnt sit back and wait any longer. I had to kind of attack a little bit more.

It has been all-or-nothing for Bryant in recent games. At one extreme, Bryant had just three points, all at the foul line, in the first half of Saturdays loss to the Hornets. At the other extreme, Bryant had one assist in 39 minutes Monday.

“Theres this either/or were getting into where either Kobes like a facilitator or hes going into scoring mode, Jackson said. “Its not quite that way. Its not that cut and dried.

“He can find his way (to score) out of the offense and also the other players can find their way to score out of the offense.

“A lot of the focus from the media has come about, `Wow, Kobes really including everybody. Thats what a system offense is all about. Its just part of what we do.

After ranking among the leagues best shooter the first two months, Walton has hit the skids recently. After Monday, Walton is shooting just 40.5 percent overall and 23.1 percent on 3-pointers in January.

“He looks like hes aiming the ball rather than just shooting it right now, Jackson said. “Hes trying to make sure it goes in and doing a lot of things that are structural things you work on in the summertime.

“Hell loosen up. Its just a phase, its just a slump like a batter goes through, and itll come back. We have confidence.