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Lakers take control with 15-6 fourth-quarter run

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The last thing the Los Angeles Lakers want is
a coaching change.

And they don't expect one.


Tomjanovich is expected to step down as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher on Tuesday.

Team spokesman John Black confirmed that Tomjanovich, 56, is considering resigning because of health reasons -- though not a recurrence of bladder cancer -- but denied that a final decision had been made.

Hours after learning that Tomjanovich was thinking about
resigning, Los Angeles beat the Portland Trail Blazers 92-79
Tuesday night behind Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins -- who both
believe their coach will remain on the job.

"I expect him to be back," said Atkins, who had 19 points and
eight assists. "Right now, he's still our coach. Everything else
is just speculation. We expect him to come back and lead us to
where we want to be.

"I'm a Rudy Tomjanovich fan. I hope he comes back -- the sooner,
the better."

Butler had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Lamar Odom added 18
points for the Lakers (24-19), who won their second straight after
a season-high three-game losing streak.

"Nothing's been confirmed yet. We'll see what happens," Butler
said. "I'm just praying for him. I know he's a great coach and a
good man. He's got a great relationship with us."

Team spokesman John Black said earlier Tuesday that Tomjanovich,
who returned to coaching this season after recovering from bladder
cancer, was considering several options -- including resignation --
because of health issues.

"This has nothing to do with cancer," Black said. "He's our
head coach until he decides to do otherwise."

The game against the Blazers was the second Tomjanovich missed
because of what the team said was a stomach virus. Black said
Tomjanovich has also had a sinus infection.

Assistant coach Frank Hamblen has led the Lakers to a pair of
victories in Tomjanovich's absence.

"I don't even want to talk about it. I hope Rudy's back
tomorrow," Hamblen said when asked about Tomjanovich's future.

Black said he had no idea when Tomjanovich would be back on the
bench -- if indeed he stays on the job. Tomjanovich signed a $30
million, five-year contract last summer to succeed Phil Jackson.

"He has discussed this with the appropriate people in the
organization," Black said. "When he does make a decision, it will
be announced at the appropriate time."

The win was the fifth in nine games for the Lakers since Kobe
Bryant sprained his right ankle Jan. 13 in a victory over
Cleveland.

"Everybody in here is still shocked and numb," Bryant said
before the game. "I called him at the house as soon as I got here
and left him a message. I just hope he's doing all right. We're all
just as surprised as anybody else.

"Hopefully, he'll come back and continue coaching us. If he
doesn't, we'll have to just kind of go from there. But our main
concern is him as a person."

Damon Stoudamire scored 25 points, Ruben Patterson added 20 and
Nick Van Exel had 18 for the Blazers (17-26), who lost for the 14th
time in 18 games.

Portland's Zach Randolph, averaging a team-leading 19.9 points,
missed all 12 of his shots in going scoreless while playing 29
minutes.

"I have never played like this in my life," Randolph said.

"What happened to him? He didn't score. He couldn't get a
bucket to go down," Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said.

The Blazers played their second game without Darius Miles
(suspension) and their fourth without Derek Anderson (sinus
infection and dental problems).

Miles, suspended for two games for arguing with Cheeks during a
film session, is eligible to play Wednesday night against Denver.

"Darius coming back tomorrow I think will definitely help our
team, and I just hope he's learned from the mistake that he made
and he can turn a negative into a positive," Stoudamire said. "I
think we can get through it, but we need people to grow up."

The Lakers clinched the victory by outscoring the Blazers 15-6
to start the fourth quarter for an 85-64 lead.

Los Angeles scored the first nine points of the third quarter
for a 58-39 lead. With Van Exel scoring nine points, the Blazers
went on a 16-4 run to draw within seven. Los Angeles led 69-59
entering the final period.

The Lakers outscored Portland 23-10 in the second quarter for a
49-39 halftime lead. The Blazers missed their first 11 shots while
being outscored 15-1 before Van Exel made a 3-pointer with 3:47
left before halftime, and wound up shooting 2-of-17 in the period.

Patterson shot 6-of-7 for 12 points and Stoudamire added 11 as
the Blazers took a 29-26 first-quarter lead after being ahead by as
many as 10 points.

Game notes
After hosting San Antonio on Thursday night, the Lakers
play 24 of their last 38 games on the road. They have played 17
road games -- fewest in the NBA. The Blazers have played 24 road
games. ... Lakers F Devean George has been diagnosed with a bone
bruise in his right foot, delaying his season debut. He hasn't
played while recovering from offseason surgery on his left ankle.
... Lakers G Tierre Brown tied his career high with nine assists
and the Lakers tied their season high with 28. ... The Blazers shot
19-of-62 (30.6 percent) in the final three periods after going
13-of-26 in the first quarter.