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L.A. READY FOR TRIP; TEAM NOT IN MUST-WIN SITUATION IN HOUSTON.

Byline: Scott Wolf Daily News Staff Writer

The Lakers held serve with their 110-98 victory over Houston on Tuesday night at the Forum, fully aware that keeping homecourt advantage makes a dreaded trip to the Lone Star State just a little less dicey.

``It definitely will be nice to keep home court advantage,'' Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. ``We (wanted) this game really bad.''

The Lakers' victory not only gave them a 2-0 lead over the Rockets, it also makes Game 3, and if necessary, Game 4 in Houston something less than must-win. After all, the last time the Lakers played at Compaq Center on April 26, they were routed by the Rockets 102-80.

That alone is a reason for the Lakers to feel a twinge about the next two games, but Bryant said the blowout will only serve as motivation.

``We just want to go there and kick their butt,'' Bryant said. ``As far as our confidence factor, that game won't be in our minds.''

But that loss remains fresh in the memories of the Lakers for another reason. Shortly afterward, they held a team meeting and confronted each other about their shortcomings.

``It was about getting our act together,'' Bryant said. ``It was a pretty good meeting.''

The Lakers did get their act together, a trend that has continued in the playoffs, and was most visible at the outset Tuesday, when the they jumped out to a 29-12 lead and never looked back.

Before the Rockets had gotten their joints loose, the Lakers blasted past them as point guard Derek Fisher kept his hot hand by scoring 11 points in the first quarter, including three shots from 3-point range.

When Fisher is burying baskets, the Rockets know they are in trouble.

Although being down 2-0 might seem insurmountable, the Rockets are so experienced (old?) that they just don't seem to panic over much these days.

``I would imagine it's going to be a five-game series,'' forward Antoine Carr said. ``I really don't think it matters that much that they have homecourt advantage.

``Obviously, we would like to have it. It's do or die now.''

One way of looking at the first two games - from the Rockets' perspective - is that the Lakers merely did what they were supposed to do.

``It doesn't put us in a hole at all,'' Houston forward Scottie Pippen said. ``We were in a hole when we got here. We're going to see what we're made of.''

Carr and Charles Barkley, among others, still believe that both teams are capable of getting hot and winning the NBA title, even one down 0-2 in the first round.

``If either one of these teams gets on a roll, it's over for the rest of the league,'' Carr said. ``We know if we go out and play, we can play with anybody anywhere. When we mess around, and do pretty-boy moves, we can get in trouble.''

CAPTION(S):

Photo

PHOTO Glen Rice and the Lakers were in the right place at the right time against Charles Barkley's Rockets.

Gus Ruelas/Daily News
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 12, 1999
Words:514
Previous Article:SILVERBULLETDAY BURNS TRACK.
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