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Jackson, Lakers may need new game plan

Posted: Monday March 24, 2003 3:28 PM


Who says Hollywood didn't roll out the red carpet Sunday? The Oscars might have abandoned the tradition in light of the war in Iraq, but it didn’t stop the hometown Lakers. Spurs guard Tony Parker and Co. glided down the lane like tuxedo-clad actors in Sunday’s home win over L.A.

Maybe Shaq, Kobe and the rest of the "Lords of the Rings" aren’t going to just be handed the hardware this season after all. After back-to-back losses to the Kings and Spurs, it’s beginning to look like Phil Jackson might need some "adaptation" to his game plan. The good news for Lakers superfan Jack Nicholson, at least, is that he can't lose out to "Chicago."

This week’s high riser: Milwaukee Bucks, to No. 17 from No. 20
This week’s big drop: Boston Celtics, to No. 16 from No. 12's Marty Burns
Rank  LW    Team 
1 1 San Antonio Spurs
They beat the Lakers on Sunday to sweep the season series. They’re also 3-1 against the Kings and 2-1 against the Mavs. Now they’ve got their sights set on catching Dallas for the Midwest title.
2 2 Dallas Mavericks
They need five victories in their final 13 games to match last season’s franchise-best victory total of 57. Meanwhile, Michael Finley (hamstring) should be back this week.
3 3 Sacramento Kings
Be prepared: “Cub Scout” Mike Bibby kept his cool and helped shoot down Shaq and the Lakers last week. But there will be no merit badge for whomever defaced Shaq’s 20,000-point game ball.
4 4 L.A. Lakers
Through Saturday, Shaq had averaged 30.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks over his past 13 games. However, consecutive losses to the Kings and Spurs last week show his team still has work to do.
5 5 Minnesota Timberwolves
The Marbury Curse? Adding to their bad luck with point guards, backup Rod Strickland reaggravated his groin injury, and his availability for the rest of the season is in doubt.
6 7 Detroit Pistons
The Sixers aren’t the only team Chauncey Billups has torn up of late. In his first nine games in March, the veteran point guard averaged 26.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
7 6 Philadelphia 76ers
After getting cooled off by the Pistons and Hawks last week, they won at Toronto on Sunday to kick off a stretch of four road games in nine days. Overall, they had won 13 of their past 17 away from home.
8 8 Portland Trail Blazers
Damon Stoudamire has averaged 12.6 points and 6.0 assists in five games since taking over for the injured Scottie Pippen. But their Pacific Division title hopes are all but gone after Saturday’s loss to the Kings.
9 9 Utah Jazz
Who says he’s too old? John Stockton, who turns 41 on Wednesday, ranks fifth in assists (7.6) and 11th in steals (1.75) this season. Only six other players in NBA history have played past their 41st birthdays.
10 10 New Jersey Nets
Speaking of birthdays, Jason Kidd dished out a season-high 18 assists to beat the Grizzlies on Saturday -– one day before he turned 30. Unfortunately, his team blew out the candles Sunday in a loss at Cleveland.
11 11 Indiana Pacers
At least Notre Dame and Butler are restoring Hoosier hoops pride. After losing to the Hawks on Saturday, Jermaine O’Neal and Co. need to get busy if they want to stay in the East’s Final Four.
12 13 New Orleans Hornets
Since returning from arthroscopic knee surgery, Baron Davis has averaged 18.0 points and 3.9 assists in six games through Sunday. Meanwhile, David Wesley (bruised foot) should be back by midweek.
13 14 Houston Rockets
Shaq-Yao IV: The Final Installment is Wednesday night at Houston. With his team battling for the No. 8 spot in the West, Yao has more than the Rookie of the Year race on his mind.
14 15 Phoenix Suns
Win one. Lose one. Win one. Lose one. … It’s not a good way to overtake the Rockets and secure the final playoff spot in the West, especially with road games at Detroit and Indiana later this week.
15 16 Orlando Magic
Drew Gooden and Gordan Giricek are averaging a combined 30.9 points and 14.5 rebounds since being acquired from Memphis. Meanwhile, Orlando has gone 10-4 and secured the No. 7 spot in the East.
16 12 Boston Celtics
Four straight losses, including Saturday’s debacle in Denver, have them on the ropes heading into Monday’s showdown in Utah. Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker look tired, and they’re not getting much help.
17 20 Milwaukee Bucks
They beat the Hornets on Saturday to move a game ahead of the Wizards for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. The triumph also gave coach George Karl his 700th career victory.
18 17 Golden State Warriors
They came within 16 games of having the same starting lineup all season before Troy Murphy (bruised right knee) went down last week. They hope he’s feeling better for their upcoming five-game road trip.
19 19 Seattle SuperSonics
Nate McMillan admits he hasn’t decided whether he’ll be back to coach them next season. Is it frustration over losing, or a signal to Charlotte owner Robert Johnson that he’s interested?
20 18 Washington Wizards
They lost at Golden State on Sunday to make it three in a row, with games yet to play at the Blazers, Sonics, Lakers and Nuggets. Even Michael Jordan might not be enough to save them now.
21 22 New York Knicks
They’re not officially out of the playoff race, but Saturday’s loss in Chicago all but sealed their fate. Meanwhile, Latrell Sprewell is shooting just 39.6 percent from the floor this season.
22 23 Atlanta Hawks
Go figure: After losing to the Bulls, Grizzlies and Raptors last week, they won back-to-back games against the 76ers and Pacers. For the season, they are 3-0 against Philly and 2-2 against Indiana.
23 21 Memphis Grizzlies
Jason Williams and Stromile Swift have made progress under coach Hubie Brown. Williams ranks second in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.77) while Swift had six straight double-doubles from March 5-16.
24 24 Chicago Bulls
They beat the Knicks on Saturday behind Eddy Curry’s 30 points to run their home record to a more-than-respectable 22-12. Now if they could just learn how to win on the road.
25 27 L.A. Clippers
With games against the Rockets, Mavs and Kings coming up, it looks like another tough week for Dennis Johnson’s crew. At least rookies Melvin Ely and Chris Wilcox are getting an extended run.
26 26 Miami Heat
They beat the Raptors on Friday to snap a four-game losing skid and move a game ahead of Toronto in the standings. So we know they’re not tanking games for draft position.
27 25 Toronto Raptors
With Antonio Davis and Jerome Williams in and out of the lineup with various ailments, they seem to have lost all fire. Gee, wonder if Lenny Wilkens will do something about it.
28 28 Denver Nuggets
Granted, they’re awful, but injuries to Marcus Camby and others haven’t helped new coach Jeff Bzdelik. Through Sunday, he had used 25 different starting lineups, by far the most in the NBA.
29 29 Cleveland Cavaliers
One week after beating the Jazz, they cut down the Nets on Sunday. With a three-game lead on the Nuggets for worst record, it’s apparently safe again to start winning games.

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