Lakers 122, Celtics 96

The only comparison Lakers coach Phil Jackson could find Friday for Vladimir Radmanovics snowboarding injury came from Luc Longley, his former center with the Chicago Bulls and one of Jacksons favorite players.

Longley suffered a separated shoulder – - the same injury as Radmanovic – - when he was thrown into a sandbar while bodysurfing off Hermosa Beach on an off-day. It wasnt a prohibited activity in Longleys contract but did cause him substantial embarrassment.

Jackson was able to joke Friday about Longleys description of a “mongrel wave that caught him. They were close enough as player and coach that Jackson visited Longley in his hometown of Perth, Australia, during his year away from coaching.

(In fact, Jackson told a funny story the other week in Atlanta about heading into the high surf with Longley in an aluminum boat that started taking on water. It sounded more like a near-death experience than vacation fun.)

Since he mentioned Longley, it seemed like a fair question to ask if Jackson felt he could ever have that kind of relationship with Radmanovic, whose first season with the Lakers will not be remembered well.

“I hope so, Jackson said. “I have a good rapport with Vlade. We have a jocular relationship, I should say. Having made a space cadet comment about him, which is an archaic comment about somebody, it still lingers over him like a halo. I dont want him to get strapped with that.

Its clear that Jackson and the Lakers arent about to give up on Radmanovic, even though they do have the technical right to void his contract. It also will be interesting to see what punishment they decide on for their Shaun White-wannabe.

The Lakers could fine or suspend Radmanovic or they could simply dock him pay while hes out injured. Radmanovic is due to make about $1.2 million for the 25 games hes expected to miss in the next eight weeks.

Kobe Bryant was feeling good enough after Fridays game to describe Radmanovic by his new nickname of “Slalom.

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Theres nothing more demoralizing to another team than when Bryant goes on one of his scoring binges and nothing more energizing to his own team. Yet Bryant has made a point of getting his teammates involved at the expense of his own offense all season.

Bryant had 22 points in the first quarter but he pointed out that it made little difference on the scoreboard. The Lakers led just 34-30 after the quarter and didnt start pulling away from the Celtics until they started trapping and coming up with steals on defense.

“I did my part there in the first quarter, Bryant said, “but the thing that we have to take away from this is that I can come out and have a 22-point quarter or a 30-point quarter, if were not stopping anybody, thats not going to do anything.

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By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

Before he walked away from Wednesdays loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, Kobe Bryant offered his exit strategy for the Lakers six-game losing streak, saying, “You have to try to will yourself out of the stretch.

It fell to Bryant to provide that will Friday night as the Lakers broke through for their first victory since Feb. 5, beating the Boston Celtics 122-96. The Lakers led by as many as 26 points in the third quarter against a Celtics team that has lost 21 of 22 games.

Bryant finished with 38 points – - 22 of which came in a spectacular first quarter – - connected on 5 of 7 3-pointers, found his teammates for nine assists, matched a season-high with five steals and played only 31 minutes in the blowout.

“I spoke to Kobe before the game and said, `Dont wait to get going in this game. Lets go at them right away, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “He carried the staff, so to speak, tonight.

“He gave me the marching orders and I carried them out, Bryant said of Jackson. “We fell behind the eight ball tonight and needed kind of a kick start and I was able to provide that.

There was a trickle-down effect from Bryant to the last man in uniform. All 11 players scored – - including seldom-used guards Shammond Williams and Aaron McKie – - and the Lakers held Boston to 66 points in the final three quarters.

Williams finished with six points and four assists and played 20 minutes. He joked on his way to a television interview afterward, “Im still the same dude from two weeks ago, and later quipped that “the ball felt like a foreign object after playing so little.

Jackson brought out his binoculars to find both Williams and McKie and the end of the bench. He brought Williams in with two minutes left in the first quarter and started the second quarter with McKie and Williams in the backcourt and Bryant on the bench.

Where he normally would play Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic, Jackson opted for the veterans instead of the kids Friday. McKie had appeared in only one other game this season and was most valued as an expiring contract heading into the trade deadline.

“I told the young players that theyve had an opportunity during the course of the year to advance, Jackson said, “and right now for the sake of the team we need to have some of the veterans in there to do the things they know how to do because theyve been on winning teams.

“Right now, thats what were after. Weve tried to develop players and bring them along and now its time to use the moxie thats necessary as veterans to win it.

Williams hit his first jumper after checking in, then another to open the second quarter, and the Lakers wound up building a 13-point lead. In talking to reporters afterward, Williams thanked Jackson several times for giving him the chance to help the team.

The only thing worse than suffering through a long losing streak, Williams added, might have been doing it from the bench.

“Its terrible because youre sitting there like, `Wow, wow. Williams said. “You just want to win. Thats what were all here for. Were all here for the win. Were not here for the money, were not here for the fame. Were here for the win.

Jackson stressed the need during the losing streak to “play for one another. Bryant said Williams and McKie could serve as examples for the Lakers younger players.

“All season long, they havent complained, they havent whined, Bryant said. “Theyve just worked hard every single day. First ones at practice, last ones to leave sort of thing. . . .Their number got called tonight and they performed extremely well.

After the Celtics broke to an 11-2 lead to start the game, Bryant took over the rest of the first quarter. He connected on four 3-pointers and scored 22 points, including 13 in a row, in what Jackson described as “attack mode.

The Lakers didnt break open the game, though, until the end of the first half, when they scored the last nine points to head into the locker room with a 65-54 lead. They made the run with their defense, which had been non-existent in recent games.

With Bryant setting the tone, the Lakers forced Paul Pierce into three consecutive turnovers, which Pierce then compounded with a technical foul. On one play, Bryant stripped Pierce, then lobbed a pass to Ronny Turiaf for an alley-oop basket.

“We have to be more aggressive, Bryant said. “Were a team that gets their hands on balls and gets out in the passing lanes and knocks the ball loose. Thats what we have to do. We cant just sit back and wait and play a passive type of a defense.

The good feelings were enough afterward that Bryant was able to joke about Vladimir Radmanovics new nickname – - “Slalom – - after Radmanovic came clean Friday about injuring his shoulder while snowboarding All-Star weekend.

“We know he feels bad about the situation, Bryant said.

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