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Monday, November 06, 2006

Lakers fall to Sonics despite previous triumphs

Everything was good for he Lakers, who took advantage of their familiarity with the Suns from the playoffs and preseason to win the opening game.

And then they beat a Golden State Warriors team that either wasn't ready to play or distracted in its home opener.

what's more, they "got away with one the other night" against the Seattle SuperSonics at Staples Center, winning a tough match that was tied with 1 & l/2 minutes to play. That was coach Phil Jackson's evaluation, at least, before his squad faced its first "real test" Sunday.

Despite the previous games, they failed that test, with the Sonics blitzing them for 95 points in three quarters while building a 26-point lead, in a 117-101 loss at Key Arena. So went the Lakers' hopes of opening 4-0 for only the fifth time in the past 20 years.

"They were the aggressor tonight," Jackson admitted, "and usually things happen for the aggressor team."

It's fair to mention that Lamar Odom, who finished with 11 points after coming into the game averaging 28, expressed: "The two E's, the effort and energy, were just bad."

In fact, the Sonics drilled the Lakers at the start of the second and third quarters, hit 12 3-pointers and scored 31 points off the Lakers' 22 turnovers. Ray Allen (32 points), Rashard Lewis (25) and Luke Ridnour (22) did the most damage for Seattle.

At least, Kobe Bryant is back and scoring, with 15 points and he made 4 of 10 shots. This was his second game back from knee surgery. It was fewer points than Bryant scored in 79 of 80games last season, when he led the NBA in scoring at 35.4 points per game.

"It's just kind of getting the flow of the game down a little bit," Bryant claims. "I haven't played in a long, long time. So it's just kind of getting that rhythm back. It felt like my passes were a little bit more sharp than they were the other game.

"And then going forward, it's just working within the offense and getting good looks and things like that. It's step by step."

Los Angeles Lakers trailed 57-49 at halftime, a lead the Sonics doubled in the first three minutes of the third quarter. Bryant tried to assert himself in taking threejumpers, but the Lakers struggled to cover Lewis, who connected on two 3-pointers.

We all saw that Jackson sat Luke Walton and Andrew Bynum in favor of Vladimir Radmanovic and Ronny Turiaf, but the Sonics kept surging out of the timeout and netted 38 points in the quarter.

Allen ran Bryant off a screen, blew past him after catching the ball and scored as part of three-point play. At the other end, Radmanovic drove the baseline, just to lose the ball out of bounds. Lewis buried another 3-pointer, and the Sonics had a 75-55 lead.

Then Jackson chosed to play a lineup without Bryant or Odom at the start of the second quarter. The results were disastrous. The unit of Brian Cook, Maurice Evans, Smush Parker, Radmanovic and Walton gave up 11 straight points in only three minutes.

We msut admit that all Bryant needed to do at the start of the game was pass the ball. He drew the Sonics defense around the lane before dropping passes to Bynum for dunks and finding open shooters for 3-pointers.

In the end, Kobe Bryant had five assists in the first six minutes and was the last of the Lakers starting five to score. The Lakers made their first seven shots and led by as many as 10 points of what started out as an easy night.

Kobe finished with nineassists against three turnovers. Bynum had 13 points but played only three minutes in the second half. Odom knocked down two early 3-pointers and despite that turned down almost all the shots the rest of the match, Jackson expressed.


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