Lakers Rout Wizards … Of Course

LOS ANGELES -- Andrew Bynum is the first to acknowledge that his two best games of the season came against two of the worst teams in the NBA.

It's all about gaining confidence and strengthening his resolve for the postseason so that the 7-foot center can be a dynamic force for the Los Angeles Lakers -- something they decidedly lacked last year in the NBA finals after he underwent season-ending knee surgery last January.

Bynum had 23 points and 14 rebounds Thursday night in a 117-97 rout of the Washington Wizards, just 24 hours after he recorded a career-high 42 points and 15 boards against the Clippers.

"I'm happy for him. If Andrew can continue to have that type of presence in the middle -- no matter who the other team is -- we're going to be a much better team," Lakers point guard Derek Fisher said. "He seems to just be getting more comfortable on the court, physically. He came into the season off a serious knee surgery and really hadn't played basketball since last January."

Bynum, who had a career-high 42 points along with 15 rebounds against the Clippers, played just 27 minutes against the Wizards and sat out the final 8:28. Phil Jackson kept the rest of the starters on the bench throughout the fourth quarter with the Lakers leading 97-68. Pau Gasol had 18 points.

"We went out there and moved the ball," Bynum said. "Everybody got shots. They were undermanned, and we were able to take advantage of them on the block."

This back-to-back set with the Clippers and Wizards wasn't much of a challenge for the defending Western Conference champions, whose 34-8 start is their best since 1971-72. Washington fell to 9-33, one night after the Clippers' record dropped to 9-32.

"The schedule is the schedule," Fisher said. "I think what makes it feel good, having this type of back-to-back is that we were able to take care of business the way we should have."

The Lakers' .809 winning percentage (34-8) is the best in the NBA, although Boston leads them by a half-game in the overall standings by virtue of their 90-80 win at Orlando in the only other game Thursday night. The defending champion Celtics have played three more games than the Lakers.

On the third anniversary of his franchise-record 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors, Kobe Bryant had 11 points, five assists and four rebounds in 28 minutes.

Earlier in the day, he was selected to start in the All-Star game for the 11th consecutive season. He was the MVP of the event in 2002 and 2007, joining Magic Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal as the only Lakers to win the award twice.

Los Angeles posted its eighth wire-to-wire victory this season -- and second against Washington. Caron Butler, who spent the 2004-05 campaign with the Lakers, had 12 points and six assists. He had 26 points the last time the teams met on Dec. 5, but missed a 3-point jumper that would have given the Wizards a victory. Instead, the Lakers won 106-104.

The rematch was no contest, as the Wizards fell to the Lakers for the fifth straight time. Los Angeles led 72-47 at halftime after outscoring the Wizards 15-5 over the final 3½ minutes of the second quarter.

"It's all about how the defense is playing us," Bryant said. "We went through a stretch where teams felt like they could double on Pau, but we made them pay. Now they're trying to do the same thing with Andrew, and we're making them pay again. Teams are trying new things defensively against us to see what works."

The first half ended on a long no-look, slingshot pass from Bryant to Bynum all alone under the basket for a dunk after Trevor Ariza stole the ball from Mike James near midcourt. The 72 points were a season high for the Lakers in one half, as was their 69.2 shooting percentage.

Antawn Jamison scored 19 points for the woeful Wizards, who have lost eight of their last 10 games and 18 of 23.

Washington is 8-23 since Ed Tapscott took over as head coach for the fired Eddie Jordan. The Wizards, who beat Sacramento 110-107 on Wednesday, are 0-9 in the second game of back-to-back sets this season and have yet to win consecutive road games.

"They broke us down and beat us up," Tapscott said. "They play the game at a very high level and they sustain that level. We had some decent moments, but we had far too many bad moments tonight."

Bryant, playing with a dislocated ring finger on his shooting hand, came in averaging 23.8 points, 11.3 assists and 9.0 rebounds in his previous four games, with two triple-doubles.

Notes: The Lakers led by 36 points after Sasha Vujacic's layup with 2:09 left in the third. Their largest winning margin over the Washington/Baltimore franchise is 35 points, on March 16, 1994, at the Forum (129-94), when the Wizards were still known as the Bullets. ... In Washington's last 31 games, only two opponents have scored as many as 30 points -- Cleveland's LeBron James (30) and New York's David Lee (30). ... Only one player has scored 30 or more points against the Lakers in their last 17 games. That was David West, who had 40 in New Orleans' 116-105 win Jan. 6.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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