Lakers 115, Wizards 103
There's nothing like a trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to lift the spirits during the dog days of an NBA season.
That's a privilege given only to the reigning champions, and the Los Angeles Lakers had their moment with President Barack Obama on Monday. It was a good substitute for a ho-hum January practice, and they promptly lifted their road doldrums Tuesday night with a 115-103 win over the Washington Wizards.
``Our overall energy was a lot better,'' said Lamar Odom, who scored 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting. ``The trip to the White House gave us a little energy. We want to go back.''
Odom said before the game that the champs had become ``a little too overconfident,'' but it didn't show as he and teammates chased down loose balls and kept their hands all over the passing lanes. The Lakers showed the troubled Wizards what hustling, focused, never-let-up basketball is all about, shooting 59 percent and forcing six turnovers during a crucial second-quarter run.
``Offensive rebounds, getting loose balls, turning teams over,'' Kobe Bryant said. ``Especially when you play on the road, that's some of things you need to have happen.''
Bryant and Pau Gasol scored 26 points apiece for the Lakers, who had lost six of their previous eight road games and pulled to a 2-2 record midway through their current eight-game swing.
Antawn Jamison, playing on a sprained right foot, scored 27 points to lead the Wizards, who lost the last four games of a six-game homestand. The game came one day after guard Javaris Crittenton received probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge, the latest fallout from last month's locker room confrontation between Crittenton and Gilbert Arenas.
``I think we're all pretty much numb to the whole thing right now,'' coach Flip Saunders said.
The Lakers took over a tight game with a 20-7 half-ending run that included Wizards turnovers of every kind. Shannon Brown stole the ball from DeShawn Stevenson, Andray Blatche traveled, Mike Miller and Mike James threw bad passes, the shot clock expired, and Brendan Haywood committed an offensive foul with 2.5 seconds left in the half.
Brown, meanwhile, used the quarter to tune up for the slam dunk contest at next month's All-Star weekend. He put home an alley-oop, threw down a flying monster to end a fast break and stunned the Wizards by dunking a missed free throw by teammate Andrew Bynum. Derek Fisher's wide-open 3-pointer gave the Lakers a 60-44 lead at the break.
``Against a team like that, that's all is takes is a quick three, four, five minutes where you're not playing your best,'' Haywood said. ``They take advantage of that, and they basically cruise all game off that little 15-point cushion.''
The Wizards stayed within shouting distance in the second half, mostly keeping the deficit between 10 and 15 points. Jamison cut it to nine, 91-82, by making a free throw with 8:58 left in the game, but the Lakers responded with a 12-2 run that included four points from Gasol, a 3-pointer from Brown and a 3-pointer and another jumper from Jordan Farmar.
Washington shot 51 percent and outrebounded Los Angeles 41-32.
``If we had played as hard in the last few of our games as we did tonight, we would have had a good homestand,'' Saunders said.
Crittenton's probation means that 40 percent of the Wizards roster has now received some sort of punishment in connection with the guns investigation, including the four players who were fined $10,000 by the team for helping Arenas make fun of the saga when the three-time All-Star pantomimed shooting his teammates before a game at Philadelphia.
More punishment is to come. Saunders said both Arenas and Crittenton were meeting with league officials this week, having to answer for breaking the league rule that bans firearms in the locker room as well as other facts that have come up in court.
Arenas, who has pleaded guilty to a felony gun charge and will be sentenced in March, is expected this week to learn the definitive length of his punishment after receiving an indefinite suspension Jan. 6. Crittenton has yet to receive a league punishment, although he hasn't played all season anyway because of a foot injury.
``We've been through some crazy stuff that don't normally happen,'' Jamison said. ``I wish both guys could come back and play, but as a team, we've got to deal with what we have.''
Notes: Although the official team visit to the White House was Monday, Bryant said he returned Tuesday morning to spend an extra 20 minutes or so with the president. Did they shoot some one-on-one? ``We talked about it over the summer, playing a little pickup ball at the White House,'' Bryant said. ... The Lakers have won six straight over the Wizards. ... Miller returned to the starting lineup for the first time since November. He had come off the bench in recent games while recovering from a calf injury. He scored 15 points to surpass 9,000 for his career.