Practice report

Here are a few tidbits from today’s practice:

Kobe Bryant practiced with his teammates and reported no lingering trouble from the groin strain that slowed him down in Sunday’s loss to the Houston Rockets. He said he’s increased his medical treatments and plans to play Tuesday against Detroit Pistons.

Pau Gasol also practiced with his teammates and said his injured right hamstring was much improved. He doubted he could play against the Pistons, but didn’t rule out playing Thursday against the Chicago Bulls.

Coach Phil Jackson harped on the Lakers’ inability to outhustle the Rockets for rebounds and loose balls. After watching an offensive rebound get away from the starters during a scrimmage, he bellowed, “That’s what hurt us last night. Go get the ball.”

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Rockets 101, Lakers 91

So, what troubled you the most about the Lakers’ second consecutive loss? The fact that they shot 33.3 percent in the second half? The fact that they were outrebounded by a whopping 60-38 by game’s end? The fact that Andrew Bynum got only three shots in the second half and 12 for the game? The fact that Kobe Bryant tried to play through a groin strain and scored 18 points on 5-for-20 shooting? The fact that Houston’s David Andersen went unguarded for most of the game and scored 19 points? The fact that the Rockets’ Aaron Brooks scored a career-high 33 points? Or was there something else?

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Halftime: Lakers 54, Rockets 52

Trevor Ariza received his championship ring tonight, joined by his 19-month-old son, Taj, at center court. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher presented Ariza with his ring and a sellout crowd of 18,997 saluted him with a standing ovation. Then the game started and Ariza struggled. He missed his first nine shots before sinking a 3-pointer late in the half. He had four points by halftime. Aaron Brooks led the Rockets with 15 piotns. Andrew Bynum led the Lakers with 14 points and six rebounds, and Ron Artest had 13 points. Kobe Bryant had 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting.

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Kareem’s return

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar visited Staples Center tonight for the first time since announcing last week that he had a treatable form of leukemia. He said he planned to continue in his role as a Lakers special assistant coach and looked forward to tutoring Andrew Bynum. He also said the response from basketball fans everywhere was overwhelming. He also said:

“It’s been quite an experience, all the attention. I didn’t expect it to play out that way. The fans and the general public have been incredible in their support. I got people’s prayers and support. They asked what they could do. It’s really been a great opportunity to re-connect with people, and I’m very glad that I did it. People have come up to me everywhere, in the supermarket, in the airport, when I’m stopped at a red light. People have given me hand signals. It’s incredible. It’s really been great. Not the usual L.A. signs when you’re at the red light too long. It’s been extraordinary. I don’t know what to do more so than I have done. People just want to connect. It’s been beautiful.”

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Looking back, looking ahead

No question, the Lakers were off their game in the second half of Friday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets. Their fatigue while playing at altitude in Denver was evident. It didn’t help that they were playing for the second consecutive night against a team that prefers to run and run and run. One sign of their tiredness was their lack of offensive movement.

Or as Andrew Bynum explained, “I didn’t get too many touches down low. We weren’t swinging the ball and there was no movement on offense. A lot of it was a lack of team basketball. We would come down, dump it in the middle and everybody would stand still.”

No practice today, so nothing newsy to report. Sunday, the Lakers host Trevor Ariza and the Houston Rockets. We will have lots of notes and quotes. The Lakers will present Ariza with his championship ring. Plus, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is expected to make his first appearance at Staples Center since announcing he has leukemia.

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Nuggets 105, Lakers 79 (updated)

DENVER — Gong. The Lakers hit the wall in the second half tonight, looking like a marathon runner who’s run out of energy in the closing miles of the race. The Denver Nuggets outscored them by 29-8 in the third quarter and ended their six-game winning streak. Kobe Bryant scored 19 points, all in the first half. Andrew Bynum had 19 points and 15 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets with 25 points, and J.R. Smith had 20.

UPDATE: The Lakers set a franchise record with 23 points in the second half, breaking the previous low of 24 set Dec. 20, 2004 against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Lakers’ all-time low for points in a game is 70 set Nov. 5, 2002 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Said Lakers coach Phil Jackson: “No one stepped up in the second half and played ball.”

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Halftime: Nuggets 58, Lakers 56

DENVER — Kobe Bryant scored 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting to lead the Lakers in the first half of a high-tempo game. Lamar Odom had 12 points, five rebounds and three assists. Ron Artest had 11 points and six assists and Andrew Bynum added 10 points and eight minutes. Nene led Denver with 11 points. Carmelo Anthony had 11 points and three fouls in only 12 minutes for the Nuggets.

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From the locker room

KOBE:

“We played really well. We executed our strategy. We played with a purpose and we came out with a big win.”

DREW:

“I was able to rest over these last five or six days. That really helped me out. I got my legs back, I’m fresh. As far as the elbow goes, I’m going to continue getting treatment. It hurts a little bit, but it’s going to be that way for a little while.”

PHIL:

“It’s a good win. We have to take it into perspective. They played a back-to-back game and came off the home floor on a road game.”

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Lakers 121, Suns 102

Statement game? Nah, it’s November. But the Lakers did reassert their position as the top dog in the Western Conference with Thursday’s blowout win over the Suns.

Andrew Bynum and his sore elbow left the Phoenix Suns feeling sore as he dominated the paint and the game for 26 points, 15 points and three blocks.

Kobe Bryant added 29 points and Josh Powell had 14 on 6-of-10 shooting. Shannon Brown was the show-stopper though, as the threw home one of the best dunks of the season in the fourth quarter.

About the only disappointment? No tacos for the fans, who heartily booed Phoenix’ Louis Amundson’s jumper that helped the Suns crack a 100 points with under a minute to go in the game.

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