Balanced attack leads Lakers to seventh straight win, share of West lead

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant was just one of the guys Saturday night. That's how simple it was for the Los Angeles Lakers against their short-handed crosstown rivals.

Pau Gasol had 23 points, five rebounds, six assists and three blocked shots, five teammates including Bryant scored in double figures, and the surging Lakers beat the Los Angeles Clippers 113-95 for their seventh straight victory.

The Lakers (38-17), tied with Phoenix for the Western Conference lead, also won seven in a row earlier this season, their longest streak since they won 11 straight late in the 2003-04 campaign before going on to reach the NBA Finals.

The Lakers haven't won a playoff series since that time. The way they're playing now, there's a possibility that will change come springtime.

"We've got 10, 11, 12 guys who can all make shots -- some from distance," said Lamar Odom, who had 20 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. "We're playing pretty good basketball. We expect to win."

It certainly shows. The Lakers have an 8-1 record with Gasol in the lineup, and have won 11 of their last 13 to move a season-high 21 games over .500.

"It feels good," Gasol said of playing for a winning team, something that wasn't the case in Memphis the past few seasons. "Obviously, we're in a great situation -- we're playing well, we've got confidence, we've got the weapons."

Bryant had 17 points and seven assists; Sasha Vujacic also scored 17 points; Jordan Farmar added 14, and Derek Fisher 12 for the Lakers.

"I liked the way we picked apart some of the Clippers' defenses, particularly in the third quarter," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We didn't settle for outside shots. We found guys open under the basket. We used penetration first, and that is important."

The Lakers have also won six straight road games -- their longest such streak in five years.

Corey Maggette scored 23 points, Tim Thomas had 20 points and seven rebounds and rookie Al Thornton added 14 points for the Clippers (19-34), who were coming off back-to-back wins for the first time since their 4-0 start to the season.

Chris Kaman [sore lower back] and Sam Cassell [sprained right wrist] sat out, leaving the Clippers with a makeshift lineup. Kaman is averaging 16.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots. Injured starters Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston have been out all season.

"Without Kaman playing Gasol, for the most part, Gasol had a walk in the park," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We certainly missed Kaman's shot-blocking ability. He came in this morning and said his back was killing him from last night, so he saw the chiropractor and got worked on, then he said he was a no-go early. So there was nothing much we could do about it."

Kaman had 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks while playing nearly 36 minutes in the Clippers' 114-104 victory over Utah on Friday night.

The Lakers broke the game open by outscoring the Clippers 28-14 to start the third quarter for an 84-62 lead. Fisher made three 3-pointers for nine points, Odom scored eight and Luke Walton added six during the spurt.

The Lakers led 90-72 entering the final period. The Clippers drew within 13 when Thomas made their only 3-pointer with 3:19 remaining, but the Lakers scored the next seven points to pull away.

"They have a unique situation over there because they have guys like Kobe, who can pretty much take over the game when he feels like it, and then you have guys like Pau, Lamar and Luke, who are great versatile players," Thomas said. "I can just imagine what they'll be like when (Andrew) Bynum comes back. That front line is going to be something to deal with."

Bynum, who injured his left knee Jan. 13, is expected to return sometime next month.

The Lakers, coming off a thrilling 130-124 victory over the Suns three nights earlier, weren't the same team in the first half, shooting just 43.2 percent in taking a 56-48 lead.

But they shot 52.2 percent in the third quarter while outscoring the Clippers 34-24 to take command.

The Lakers outscored the Clippers 12-3 to finish the first quarter for a 29-21 lead. Farmar scored five points and Bryant added four during the spurt, which put the Lakers ahead for good.

Game notes
The game was played before an announced crowd of 20,236 at Staples Center. ... The Lakers go for their eighth straight win Sunday night in Seattle. After that, they'll have 16 home games remaining and 10 road games left. They've played an NBA-low 25 home games. ... Lakers F Vladimir Radmanovic strained his right calf late in the first quarter and didn't return. He will travel to Seattle for Sunday night's game, but his status is in question. ... Dunleavy said he expects Brand and Livingston to play this season, but isn't sure when. "It's not going to be for a while," he said. ... Maggette has scored 20 or more points in eight straight games. ... The Clippers used their 22nd different starting lineup of the season. ... The Lakers shot 10-for-26 from 3-point range, while the Clippers were 1-for-14.