Lakers win easily … again

The Lakers cruised to their fourth consecutive double-digit victory, beating the San Antonio Spurs by 99-85 today at Staples Center. They won easily because they played a superb second half, holding the Spurs to a meager 40 points on 34.1 percent shooting.

Kobe Bryant had 22 points, Trevor Ariza had 17, Pau Gasol scored 16, Andrew Bynum had 15 points and 11 rebounds and Jordan Farmar had 14 points. Tony Parker had 19 points to lead the Spurs, and Tim Duncan added 15. They were the only Spurs in double figures.

“Well, they went flat in the second half,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of the Spurs. “I’m not going to credit our defense. We did OK.”

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Halftime: Lakers 51, Spurs 45

Kobe Bryant scored 15 points to help the Lakers to a slim lead over San Antonio at halftime. Pau Gasol added nine points and Jordan Farmar, playing for the first time since undergoing knee surgery Dec. 24, added eight points in seven minutes. Tony Parker scored 11 points and Tim Duncan had 10 for the Spurs.

The showdown between the top teams in the Western Conference was as tight as expected, with neither team willing to give up an inch of the Staples Center court. The Lakers’ biggest lead was eight points and the Spurs’ largest advantage was two.

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Whole again (updated)

Jordan Farmar returned to the Lakers’ active roster for today’s game against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center, one month and one day after undergoing surgery to repair meniscus damage in his left knee. Lakers coach Phil Jackson was uncertain before the game whether Farmar would play, but said he believed he could if needed.

UPDATE: Farmar entered the game at the start of the second quarter, his first action since he injured his knee in the Lakers’ loss to the Miami Heat on Dec. 19.

The Lakers were without Farmar, Luke Walton (right foot), Lamar Odom (right knee) and Sasha Vujacic (back) for a short period two weeks ago. Odom and Vujacic returned to the active roster first, followed by Walton and now Farmar.

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Talking ’bout practice

Phil Jackson seemed amused today by the attention his comments about his coaching future generated Friday. He declined to clarify his statement that he would coach through the end of the 2009-10 season, then retire. He said, “I signed a two-year contract that I will do one year at a time, which is pretty normal right? That’s as much clarity as I have.”

Meanwhile, Lamar Odom seemed surprised and hurt when informed that the Clippers had complained to the league office about his crotch-grab after a dunk during the Lakers’ victory Wednesday. He said he meant no offense to anyone.

“No, somebody’s wrong” he said. “I have no hard feelings toward the Clippers. Oh, man. That’s too bad. I wouldn’t do anything like that. Nah. It’s not my intention to offend anyone. I wish them well – everyone from the players to the front office. I’m being dead serious. I played for the Clippers six years ago. I don’t even know how to respond.”

The Clippers drafted Odom out of Rhode Island in 1999, and he had four productive seasons for them before signing with the Miami Heat as a free agent in the summer of 2003. He came to the Lakers as part of the blockbuster Shaquille O’Neal trade in 2004

And finally, Jordan Farmar hoped to practice with his teammates Friday or Saturday, but since they didn’t practice Friday and held a non-contact workout Saturday, he must wait until Monday. He has recovered quicker than expected after undergoing left knee surgery Dec. 24. He probably won’t play Sunday against San Antonio, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him on the active roster for Tuesday’s game against Charlotte.

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Is Phil finished after next season?

Phil Jackson plans to coach the Lakers through the end of next season and then retire, he told Magic Johnson today in an interview to be aired during the national telecast of Sunday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center.

“One more year after this one with the Lakers,” Jackson said. “Dr. Buss has insinuated that he would like me to coach longer, but I said, ‘Let’s just do one year at a time right now.’ So that’s what we’re doing.”

Jackson’s contract runs through the 2009-10 season. He turns 64 next September.

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Rest and relaxation

The Lakers did not practice today, but will hit the court Saturday to prepare for Sunday afternoon’s showdown with the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center. I would expect to see Jordan Farmar back on the floor today, practicing for the first time since undergoing surgery on his left knee Dec. 24. If all goes well, Farmar could be ready to play next week.

Farmar’s return would make the Lakers whole again. Farmar, Lamar Odom, Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic each suffered injuries, which tested the Lakers’ depth for the last month or so. GM Mitch Kupchak resisted the urge to sign a player or two to a 10-day contract and the Lakers survived the injury bug with minimal damage.

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Praising the Lakers

Interesting observation from Washington coach Ed Tapscott after the Lakers soundly defeated his Wizards on Thursday night. Tapscott, who was hired on an interim basis after Eddie Jordan got canned earlier this season, praised the Lakers’ unselfish play.

“You know what’s the most impressive thing about the Lakers? Tapscott said. “I watch Kobe Bryant, who is clearly one of the dominant scorers in basketball and maybe of all time, and I watched the way he made sure that every guy on the floor got shots.

“He shared the ball. He made sure (Pau) Gasol got the ball in his spots. When (Sasha) Vujacic came in, he made sure he got corner jump shots. He made sure (Derek) Fisher curled and got his shots.

“I watched him when he could have taken shots at any time (but) made sure his teammates got quality shots, so that they were into the game. That makes you run harder, rebound more, defend better. That makes everybody on the team participate with greater zeal when you have that type of unselfishness.

“I kept making that point to our young guys. Watch how they share the ball, even when the game is decided, so to speak, and you could go out there and look for your own numbers. They continued to share the ball and they were trying to get other guys shots.

“So that is very impressive team spirit that I hope our guys are impressed by. I certainly was.”

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Inside the locker room

Here are a few of the better postgame comments after the Lakers hammered the Washington Wizards, 117-97, tonight at Staples Center. It wasn’t much of a contest, but there were a few interesting views expressed after the Lakers improved to 34-8.

Coach Phil Jackson was pleased by Andrew Bynum’s second good scoring and rebounding game in as many nights. Bynum led the Lakers with 23 points and 14 rebounds one night after scoring a career-high 42 points and taking 15 rebounds Wednesday against the Clippers.

“I thought that was a good sign,” Jackson said when asked about Bynum’s play. “I think he’s focused on it (rebounding). He’s made an effort. We said, ‘Go get balls, just go get them. Don’t let them come to you. Go fetch them.’”

Bynum on the team’s improved play: “Everybody got shots. They were undermanned and we were able to take advantage of them. We went out there and played pretty decent defense the first three quarters. Understanding where to be and where we need to be for each other helps. We already have a strong defense and we’re just getting better and better at it.”

Bynum had this to say about playing against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday: “We’re looking forward to that game. We definitely owe them one.”

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Rout city

The Lakers blasted the Washington Wizards, 117-97, tonight, moving atop the overall NBA standings thanks to their 34th victory of the season. Andrew Bynum scored 23 points and took 14 rebounds and Pau Gasol scored 18 points for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant had only 11 points, and did not play in the fourth quarter. Antawn Jamison had 19 for the Wizards.

Next: A showdown Sunday afternoon against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center.

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All-Star starters

Here are the Western Conference starters:

F – Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

F – Amar’e Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns

C – Yao Ming, Houston Rockets

G – Kobe Bryant, Lakers

G – Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets

Eastern Conference starters:

F – Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics

F – LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

C – Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic

G – Allen Iverson, Detroit Pistons

G – Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

Personally, I’d say the fans got it almost all right. Iverson’s selection is probably based on past success rather than this season’s results. Otherwise, it looks good to me.

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