Halftime: Lakers 62, Thunder 48

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Lakers did as they pleased en route to a 24-point lead in the first half of their second game on their seven-game trip. Their 57.1 percent shooting in the first half hinted at their dominance. So did a 24-17 rebounding advantage. They outscored the Thunder, 37-20, in the first quarter and were never challenged. Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom led the Lakers with 13 points in the first half. Jeff Green had 12 points for the Thunder.

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Q-and-A with Jordan Farmar

OKLAHOMA CITY — Here are a few additional comments from Jordan Farmar that got left out of today’s story on him, his role and his progress as the second unit’s point guard. You can find the story on the Website. Or in print.

Question: Are you back to 100 percent (after having left knee surgery Dec. 24)?
Farmar: “Physically? Yeah, I think so. I felt 100 percent when I first came back. There’s a difference between being 100 percent and actually playing. We don’t actually practice that much, so you don’t really get a chance to play.”

Question: Were the expectations of the Bench Mob too high early in the season?
Farmar: “Our team was a little different at the start of the year. Vlade (Radmanovic) was starting, so both Luke (Walton) and Trevor (Ariza) were on the bench. Our bench was different. Putting Luke and Trevor back on the bench makes things different. We have two guys (Shannon Brown and Adam Morrison) who aren’t playing. We’ve been in our offense at a championship caliber for a year. Those guys could play, but we don’t get a chance to practice.

“The dynamic has changed. People want results, results, results, but there are reasons for it (a drop off in the level of play). It’s a continuous work in progress, ever changing. It’s not like we come in and say, ‘OK, we’re going to run a bunch of plays for Sasha (Vujacic) or a bunch of plays for Luke.’ We come in and play and however it works out, it works out. There are other teams that run a lot of screen-and-roll. You have a guy like J.R. Smith (of the Denver Nuggets) who comes in and scores. Or like (San Antonio’s Manu) Ginobili. You can say, ‘Oh, they kicked our butts.’ So the roles are just completely different.

“Looking at the big picture, it’s a lot bigger (than individual performances). What have we lost, 14 games all year? We’re still playing great basketball. It’s just a matter of balancing and trying to find out what’s going to continue to work.”

Question: Is it difficult to balance aggressive play with the triangle offense?
Farmar: “I think that has a lot to do with it. Our system doesn’t allow me to play aggressively the way I know how to play, coming out on screen-and-rolls and making decisions and making reads. So playing aggressive will be hard for me to do. Fish (Derek Fisher) will come out and play 35 minutes and he gets only two or three shots some games. That’s just how it works out in the system.”

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Best, worst NBA arenas

CHICAGO — Slow news day. Optional practice for the Lakers. Watched lots of college basketball. Made a list of the best and worst arenas in the NBA. Various factors went into the judging, including atmosphere and overall impressions of the arenas. Don’t know enough about ticket or beer prices around the league, so that’s not factored. Neither is parking, but access to public transportation is weighed. Downtown locations preferred.

UPDATED: In response to anonymous’ complaint that this isn’t a list of the best and worst, it’s just about the fans. Guess you failed reading comprehension in school. Doesn’t it say in the paragraph above that “Various factors went into the judging, including atmosphere and overall impressions of the arenas.” Atmosphere equals fans. Right? Right? Right? C’mon people.We need more and better response to this blog. I’m doing my part. You people need to step it up. Thank you. Rant over.

The top 5
1. Conseco Fieldhouse (Indiana) … Made to look and field like a high school or college gym from the 1950s. The first and only retro arena. Too bad the team isn’t better.
2. EnergySolutions Arena (Utah) … Bad name, great fans. Steep pitch in the lower bowl of the arena makes it feel like the fans are sitting right on top of the court. Noisy and hot.
3. Madison Square Garden (New York) … The oldest arena in the league. Best and most appreciative fans in the league. Right in the heart of the city, which helps.
4. Arco Arena (Sacramento) … It’s small and loud and the fans are obnoxious. What’s not to like? OK, so it’s outdated and ownership desperately wants a new building.
5. US Airways Center (Phoenix) … Fans are right on top of the action. The building is right in the heart of downtown, with restaurants and bars within walking distance.

The bottom 5
1. Izod Center (New Jersey) … When the Nets move to Brooklyn, maybe then there will be a sense of place that’s lacking in the swamps west of New York. Until then … Boo.
2. Amway Arena (Orlando) … This must have been some kind of place before they invented electricity. No charm. Just loud. No surprise, the Magic want a new arena.
3. Target Center (Minnesota) … It’s not all that old, but it looks like it’s about to tumble to the ground when you walk inside. Great location fails to make up for lack of atmosphere.
4. AT&T Center (San Antonio) … Great, great fans in San Antonio. They deserved better than this dark and uninviting barn located on the edge of nowhere.
5. New Orleans Arena (New Orleans) … Fans have turned out in droves since the Hornets returned after Hurricane Katrina. They deserve more in their arena, however.

The OK 5
1. TD Banknorth Arena (Boston) … Used to hate it, but great fans make up for a fairly ho-hum design. Blandest exterior of any building in the league. Too bad.
2. Toyota Center (Houston) … Fans in one section behind the basket stand for most of the game, chanting and cheering. Sounds more like Euro soccer than the NBA.
3. Rose Garden (Portland) … Big arena, but the fans manage to make it come alive when the Trail Blazers are playing well. And they’re playing very well right now.
4. FedEx Forum (Memphis) … Just like the look of the place. Beats the heck of the Pyramid, the Grizz’s old home. Best place to watch bad basketball.
5. Time Warner Cable Arena (Charlotte) … Another hideous sponsorship title. Good barn, though. Good sight lines. Noisy. Beats the old place the Hornets used to call home.

The next 5
1. United Center (Chicago) … Seats like a million people, and feels like a hangar.
2. Verizon Center (Washington) … Right downtown. Easy access to the Metro.
3. American Airlines Arena (Miami) … Cool location right on the waterfront.
4. Oracle Arena (Oakland) … Warriors fans keep turning out to see bad teams.
5. Pepsi Center (Denver) … Gotta love all the Lakers haters in Colorado.

The rest
1. Staples Center (Lakers and Clippers) … Too big and uninviting, but it’s home.
2. American Airlines Center (Dallas) … Really looks like an airplane hangar.
3. Air Canada Centre (Toronto) … Good for hockey, but only so-so for hoops.
4. Quicken Loans Arena (Cleveland) … Will it still hop if LeBron bounces in 2010?
5. Philips Arena (Atlanta) … Suites are all on one side of the building. Very odd.
6. Ford Center (Oklahoma City) … Good crowd, but a fairly routine building.
7. The Palace (Detroit) … Great crowd, but fairly ordinary design. Huge lower bowl.
8. Wachovia Center (Philadelphia) … Too big. Too quiet. Just a hockey arena, really.
9. Bradley Center (Milwaukee) … Yawn.

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The Bench Mob rules

CHICAGO — The Lakers rallied to defeat the Chicago Bulls tonight at the United Center because their backups ignited a withering 28-5 run to start the fourth quarter. The Bench Mob has had its share of struggles recently, but came through when called upon and propelled the Lakers to a 117-109 victory to start their seven-game trip.

Kobe Bryant scored 28 points and Pau Gasol added 23 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds, but they were on the bench when backups Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic and Josh Powell joined with starter Lamar Odom to seize control.

Farmar scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter. Walton scored all five of his points in the final period as did Vujacic. Powell had both of his two in the fourth and Odom had three of his 13 in the final quarter.

“They got some turnovers,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “When you do that, you can get some run-outs and make things happen. Just little things like getting loose balls, getting down the floor. They helped each other out, guys played together. We got Sasha some shots and Jordan was very effective out there. It was good to see that tonight. The confidence is very important. They recognize they have to help each other out, that’s the first thing. The second thing is that they have to stay aggressive.”

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Halftime: Bulls 62, Lakers 48

CHICAGO — Well, one team seemed excited to be playing tonight. It wasn’t the Lakers, however. The Chicago Bulls ran circles around the heavy-legged Lakers en route to a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter. The Lakers’ deficit grew to as many as 16 points in the second quarter. Chicago shot 59.1 percent in the first half; the Lakers shot 45.5 percent. John Salmons led the Bulls with 18 points. Kobe Bryant had 13 for the Lakers.

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Milestone ahead for Jackson

CHICAGO — Lakers coach Phil Jackson is set to coach his 725th game with the team tonight, tying him with John Kundla for the second-most games in franchise history. Pat Riley holds the Lakers’ record with 727 games coached. Jackson will match Riley’s total when the Lakers play the Detroit Pistons on Thursday and pass him in Friday’s game against the New Jersey Nets.

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Barkley, Webber on the Lakers’ chances

Charles Barkley believes the Lakers are a better team with 7-foot center Andrew Bynum than without him (surprise!). He and fellow former NBA standout Chris Webber talked about the Lakers’ postseason fortunes during halftime of TNT’s telecast of the Lakers’ victory Thursday night over the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center.

Said Barkley: “I don’t think the Lakers can win the championship without Andrew Bynum. You know what killer instinct really is? It’s just defense. And realistically, if you look at (the Lakers), Kobe Bryant is a defender, but there’s no one else on that team that you say, ‘He’s a defender.’ The game always comes down to defense. They’ve got to be concerned. They are one of the elite teams in the NBA, but can they beat the Spurs, Utah, Celtics, Cleveland and Orlando? It’s not going to be that easy.”

Said Webber: “We interviewed Kobe (Bryant) earlier this year and … he said the reason why (the Lakers) lost (in the Finals) last year is because they weren’t tough. Just because you have a great team and you can win those (regular season) games, it is a totally different season when the playoffs come. … When you’re not respected by other NBA teams or when other people see that chink in your armor, they are gong to go after that. If they don’t have Bynum, then they don’t have shot blocking inside, they don’t have toughness in their presence and other teams could exploit that.”

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About Sun

Apparently Sun Yue playing more of a small forward role with the D-Fenders, rather than point guard. That’s not to say he’s changing positions. Just that he’s playing small forward for the D-Fenders. The idea is for him to learn the offense from a different position and keep him on the court as much as possible.

His shooting has been off, and his conditioning isn’t top notch, because it’s been hard to get enough practice time in recent months with so many road games. Nevertheless, I’m told he’s impressed his teammates and coaches in his D-League stint.

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Lakers win … sort of

The Lakers defeated the Golden State Warriors, 114-106, tonight at Staples Center. They squandered almost all of an 18-point lead in the third quarter, then watched as the Warriors crept to within 105-102 in the final minutes before holding on to win.

Coach Phil Jackson was happy for the victory, which kept the Lakers (54-14) within one game of the league-leading Cleveland Cavaliers (55-13). He wasn’t overly enthusiastic about their play one game after they blew a 14-point lead and lost to Philadelphia and two games after they coughed up a 15-point lead before scrambling back to defeat Dallas.

“Well, turnovers were awful tonight, right off the bat,” Jackson said. “Direct line penetration was not very good. I thought we did some inconsistent things against their personnel. There’s three or four things right off the bat that I can name that we did not improve tonight. Significantly, I thought there was some better recognition in transition defense. And even though they got some breaks early, we still had better recognition as to getting back and shutting the ball down.”

Breaking it down further, the Lakers had 22 turnovers, which Golden State turned into 23 points. The undersized Warriors had 46 points in the paint. they also had 14 fastbreak points.

On the plus side, the Bench Mob rebounded from a pair of lackluster games. Sasha Vujacic led the second unit with 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting. Luke Walton had nine points, Josh Powell had seven and Jordan Farmar had four. Shannon Brown and DJ Mbenga also played, but they did not score.

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Halftime: Lakers 52, Warriors 51

The Lakers had their hands full with the Golden State Warriors tonight, leading by only one point at halftime. The Lakers played in fits and starts and the Warriors played with a sense of urgency common to teams hoping to make their season by knocking off the high and mighty. Pau Gasol had another fine first half, leading the Lakers with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting. Kobe Bryant, fresh off jury duty in Orange County, had nine points. Kelenna Azubuike led Golden State with 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting.

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