Warriors-Lakers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 12, 2013
With a playoff berth at stake, Kobe Bryant continues to will the Los Angeles Lakers to victory. The veteran superstar, though, still has plenty of work to do. Looking to continue their quest for a postseason spot, Bryant and the surging Lakers go for a 10th consecutive home win over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night. One night after scoring 23 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter of a 104-96 victory win New Orleans, Bryant went off for a season-high 47 in Wednesday's 113-106 victory at Portland. "What he is doing is phenomenal. He's determined to get us in the playoffs," said coach Mike D'Antoni, whose team has won five of six. "That's what happens when you open your mouth and guarantee that we'll get in the playoffs." The eighth-place Lakers (42-37) are now one game ahead of Utah for the Western Conference's final postseason berth with three to go. Los Angeles, though, needs to finish ahead of the Jazz, who own the tiebreaker. "We've got no breathing room at all," Bryant said. "I'm still on edge. We've got to win three more games and we're in." The Lakers control their own destiny, but their road to the postseason could be tough. After this game, Los Angeles concludes its schedule against San Antonio and Houston. Utah, meanwhile, plays Northwest Division-worst Minnesota twice before visiting Memphis. The Lakers, though, have to like their chances of taking care of business versus Golden State (45-34). They have won 34 of 37 in the series at home, including the last nine by an average of 14.7 points. Los Angeles cruised to an easy 101-77 victory during the Warriors' last visit Nov. 9. The Lakers had gone 18-1 in the series overall before coming up short 109-103 at Golden State on March 25. Bryant had 36 points but shot just 11 of 27. He's averaging 33.8 in his last eight matchups against the Warriors. After clinching its first playoff berth since 2007 with Tuesday's 105-89 win over Minnesota, Golden State couldn't keep up Thursday in a 116-97 loss to Oklahoma City. Stephen Curry had 22 points but the Warriors allowed the Thunder to shoot 50.6 percent. "That was a team that's chasing the No. 1 seed and was trying to send a message, 'Just in case I see you at some point down the road,'" coach Mark Jackson said. Sitting just one-half game ahead of Houston for the No. 6 seed, Golden State is expected to be without Andrew Bogut, who sprained his surgically repaired left ankle Thursday. He's missed 48 of 79 games, mostly due to lingering ankle woes. The former No. 1 overall pick is averaging a career-low 5.9 points, but he's second on the team with 7.6 rebounds per game. With Bogut sidelined, the Warriors could have an even harder time trying to contain Pau Gasol, who's finally starting to round into form after missing 33 games over the course of the season. The four-time All-Star, averaging 6.7 assists during the team's 5-1 run, has scored a combined 45 points in the last two contests on 20-of-30 from the field. "I'm still not 100 percent, and I won't be," said Gasol, who's shooting 58.3 percent over the last eight games. "I'm managing it well. I'm getting good rhythm, I'm making good decisions, and my focus is really good right now. We're just doing whatever it takes to win."
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