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Lakers Look To Go 13-1 Since All-Star Game

(AP) -- The Los Angeles Lakers will play a second straight game without Andrew Bynum when they host the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.

Based on Los Angeles' performance in the first game of his suspension, Bynum's absence might not matter as it goes for a fifth straight win.

The Lakers (50-20) improved to 12-1 since the All-Star break with an 84-80 win over Portland on Sunday. Kobe Bryant scored 22 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and Lamar Odom had 16 points, 11 rebounds and six assists starting in place of Bynum.

Before the game, Los Angeles learned that Bynum, averaging 11.5 points and 9.0 rebounds, received a two-game suspension after being charged with a flagrant foul that led to his ejection in a 106-98 win over Minnesota on Friday.

Bynum's absence was missed on the glass, where the Lakers were outrebounded 45-35, but Los Angeles tightened its defense, holding the Trail Blazers to 32.4 percent shooting in the second half and 14 points in the fourth quarter.

"In the first three quarters they were beating us to the loose balls, they were going on the offensive glass and tipping it back out and getting multiple shot opportunities. Those things are going to happen when you miss your big guy in the middle," point guard Derek Fisher said. "I think in the fourth quarter we stood it up and played the type of defense we needed to play."

Fisher had back-to-back crucial plays in the final period, picking up a steal with two minutes left and giving the Lakers a 78-76 lead on a driving layup.

"D-Fish came through," Odom said. "We could have easily lost this game, but I thought we got better. We made some steps as a team. We showed we can win these games, but we don't need to put ourselves in that position."

Los Angeles hasn't given up 100 points in a regulation game since the break and its last 10 opponents have averaged 86.7.

The Lakers are looking to win their seventh straight at home Tuesday against a Suns team that handed them one of their eight losses at Staples Center, 121-116 on Nov. 14. Los Angeles won the other two meetings in Phoenix.

While Los Angeles has clinched the Pacific Division and has a one-game lead over Dallas for the second seed in the Western Conference, Phoenix (35-33) is hoping to just reach the postseason.

The Suns have won their last two following a four-game losing streak, defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 108-99 at Staples Center on Sunday after shooting 10 for 22 from 3-point range.

Steve Nash had 23 points and 13 assists, while Channing Frye went 5 of 9 from beyond the arc and finished with 19 points.

Frye, playing in his second game after sitting out the previous five with a dislocated shoulder, hit two 3-pointers in the final minutes. He had 17 points and nine rebounds two nights earlier in his return, a 108-97 win over Golden State.

Phoenix is among a handful of clubs vying for one of the final playoff spots in the West.

"The good thing is, we have a lot more games to play than some of the teams ahead of us," forward Grant Hill said. "Crazier things have happened."

Updated March 21, 2011

w4 © 2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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