Jackson, Lakers still seek answers
Such was the back story to the second Kobe Bryant-LeBron James showdown of the season. The Lakers had to end their four-game losing streak in order to reach the unofficial halfway point of the season on any sort of a positive note. The Lakers came into Thursday with a 30-23 record after taking a .500 record into the All-Star break last season. They were 28-26 for comparison after 54 games; the Lakers would have to win either 20 or 19 of their last 28 games to reach 50 wins this season. After a series of disappointing games, Lamar Odom was an inspirational player at the start of the fourth quarter. He attacked for a three-point play, tied up Sasha Pavlovic on the defensive end and gunned a no-look pass to Andrew Bynum for a basket. Even when Bynum missed the free throw with a chance for a three-point play, Odom grabbed the offensive rebound, leading to a Bynum basket. Gone were the memories of Odom’s airball to end Tuesday’s loss to the New York Knicks. There still are 28 games left in the regular season, but the Lakers are settling into sixth in the Western Conference standings. They came into Thursday trailing fifth-place Houston by four games and leading seventh-place Denver by three games. That likely would bring a first-round playoff series against Utah or San Antonio and the Lakers would not have home-court advantage. They were the No. 7 seed last season and exited in the first round, but not until pushing Phoenix to a seventh game. Jackson conceded the Lakers have not played well in about three weeks, but said the primary concern was how they closed the regular season. The Lakers went 19-11 after the All-Star break last season and won their final five games before the playoffs. “The thing that’s important is about gaining momentum and going into the playoffs with momentum,” Jackson said. “Yes, you want the best record. You want matchups that work for you, whatever. “We don’t want to tank games to get better position, like perhaps the Clippers did last year. We don’t want to aim for anybody specifically. “But we do think that if you get momentum – we had it last year, we went in, we played a great playoff series – and that’s what we want to have when we finish up this season. Whatever the record is, that’s what it’s going to be.” The Lakers started the season with Bryant recovering from knee surgery and Jackson from a hip replacement. They took advantage a front-loaded schedule with 15 of their first 20 games at home and beat each of the Western Conference’s top five teams. But the Lakers lost Odom for 21 games with a knee injury, then watched center Kwame Brown suffer a severe ankle sprain on New Year’s Eve. The same game as Odom returned last month, Luke Walton went down with a sprained ankle of his own. The injuries and schedule caught up to the Lakers as they went 3-5 on an Eastern Conference road trip. They came into Thursday’s game having lost 10 of their previous 14 games and four in a row. [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! • Photo Gallery: 02/15: Lakers vs. Cavaliers LOS ANGELES – Maybe it’s not a surprise for the coach who reached 900 wins faster than anyone in NBA history, but Phil Jackson arrived at Staples Center for Thursday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers having had only two five-game losing streaks in all his years of coaching. He now has three after Thursday’s 114-108 loss. The last thing Jackson wanted to do was spend the four-day All-Star break thinking about ways to correct the bearings of a Lakers team that had lost its course. Neither did his players, who were headed to Las Vegas, Cabo San Lucas and points in between.