Lakers dogged by inconsistent play

LOS ANGELES --- The Western Conference semifinals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets appears to come down to a simple question.


Which Lakers team will show up for the decisive Game 7?

The one that blew out the undermanned Rockets by 40 points in Game 5 to set up what most everyone thought would be the clinching game? Or the one that quickly fell behind by double digits two nights later and lost by 15?

The Lakers, it seems, will be the ones who determine whether today's matinee at Staples Center is a feel-good story or a horror show.

The winner of this physical, sometimes-testy series will advance to the conference finals to face the Denver Nuggets, who have been resting since eliminating Dallas on Wednesday night.

Kobe Bryant admits it's a mystery why the Lakers have been so wildly inconsistent against a team few expected would reach the second round, let alone push the top seed in the West to a Game 7.

"Yeah, that's the million-dollar question," Bryant said Saturday. "There's a bunch of other teams in the past that went through the same thing for whatever reason. It's just the emotions of an NBA season, I guess."

After being outmuscled by the now-sidelined Yao Ming in the opener at home, the Lakers dominated Games 2, 3 and 5. Los Angeles was twice embarrassed in Texas by the Rockets, who lost Yao when he broke a bone in his left foot in Game 3 .

Lakers coach Phil Jackson acknowledged before Game 5 his team has a split personality.

"This team has a Jekyll and Hyde in it a little bit, I'll admit that," Jackson said. "They have a tendency to get on their heels at times as a basketball team, but they've always responded."



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