Whicker: Blazers’ Damian Lillard shows Lakers why superstars are worth it AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe loss, however, hurt.And therein lies the difference. In each of the past four seasons, the Lakers have been so often outmatched on the court, that the wins were rare and difficult to predict. The late-season results were tracked more for the impact on the draft lottery than development, and the playoffs were so far out of reach that they were given little thought.Now, sitting seven games back from the eight seed with 19 games to go, the Lakers are just close enough to the playoff race to miss it.“Last year we really weren’t playing for anything,” Randle said. “We were playing to obviously develop us as players, but this year I feel that we’re playing to develop a culture. We’re really learning how to win games and we come in expecting to win games.”But since the All-Star break, Walton’s team has summoned previously unseen resolve, knocking off five teams in a row before succumbing to Portland. Damian Lillard takes over late as Blazers end Lakers’ 5-game win streak Lakers finding meaning in season’s final stretch as wins keep coming “We were kind of going one-on-one a little, hoping people would make a big shot,” Walton said, “and we’ve got to be better on that.”The Lakers had a chance to force overtime, down by three with 7.4 seconds left. But Isaiah Thomas’ shot was stripped by Shabazz Napier and the Lakers (28-35) lost 108-103.It was an impressive effort with second-year forward Brandon Ingram out at least a week with a groin injury and the Lakers already without rookie defensive specialist Josh Hart due to hand surgery.“Our guys battled last night,” Walton said. “They built a 10-, 11-point lead against a playoff team without those guys.”The level of competition stiffens over the final month of the season. After hosting Orlando on Wednesday, in the next week the Lakers will face Denver twice, Cleveland and play at Golden State.Related Articles Brandon Ingram out with groin strain for at least a week, Lakers say Their final five games, starting on April 3, feature two games against the Utah Jazz, and matchups with the Spurs, Rockets, Timberwolves and Clippers. All are either teams in the playoffs or in the mix for the final slot in the Western Conference.With 30 wins on the horizon, Lakers players have started speaking openly about a desire to get into the playoff picture, to shake up the race. Walton prefers to keep his team’s focus on what is directly in front of it.“They know how important it is for us to continue to build and get better,” he said. “We can’t waste the last 20 games of the season. We have to use these as opportunities to build momentum into the summer, whether it’s the playoffs or not. Build momentum and confidence and get better. Because it’s all part of the journey we’re on to get back to being a playoff and eventually a championship team.” EL SEGUNDO — The evidence was all over the faces of Lakers players as they sat through a film session on Tuesday, the morning after they blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead and lost to the Portland Trail Blazers.Expectations have changed for the Lakers.“Last night, we went home after the game very disappointed,” forward Julius Randle said. “We definitely go into games feeling like we should win.”Coach Luke Walton stressed that “there wasn’t a dark cloud” over his team. “There was still laughter and joy once we got out here to the court,” he said. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., obtained the e-mail and sent it to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. The Social Security Administration confirmed that the e-mail was legitimate. Asked about the e-mail, agency spokesman Mark Hinkle said, “We continue to provide Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits and assistance with timeliness and professionalism.” Waxman told Hastert the agency is considering closing offices for certain periods to allow staffers to complete other work. He asked that the appropriate congressional committees investigate. In her Jan. 21 e-mail, McMahon told employees that Congress had passed the agency’s budget in late December, delivering $300 million less than President George W. Bush had requested. The agency’s budget is $9.1 billion for this fiscal year – a cut of almost $200 million. The budget covers administrative costs, not payments to seniors and the disabled. To cope, McMahon said, the agency would do fewer reviews of whether disabled adults and children should continue getting monthly cash payments called Supplemental Security Income. It would also look at nonpersonnel spending to free up more money for overtime. WASHINGTON – The Social Security Administration is straining from spending cuts and extra work brought on by the new prescription drug benefit, according to internal correspondence from an agency official. The agency is helping senior citizens and the disabled enroll in the drug benefit, plus it has responsibility for determining who qualifies for extra government help in paying for medicine. The agency is seeing a huge increase in phone calls and office visits as a result. One out of three calls to the agency’s 800 number for information results in a busy signal, and people are visiting Social Security Administration offices at a rate of nearly 200,000 per day, said an e-mail to employees from Linda McMahon, deputy commissioner of operations for Social Security. “Ever since the Medicare Modernization Act passed, those of you on the front line have been expressing your deep concern that SSA is not positioned well to help people understand, enroll in and negotiate the new Medicare Part D coverage,” McMahon said. “Now we are seeing the consequences of that fact.” The reviews of SSI recipients are important because they can prevent people from getting payments even after they’ve fully recovered from illness or injury. The Government Accountability Office has stated that the reviews return $11 to the treasury for every $1 that is spent conducting them. If the information in the e-mail is correct, it’s a grave concern because 50 million people get benefits through Social Security, Waxman said. “While these benefits are not at risk, the ability of the Social Security Administration to manage the program, respond to beneficiaries’ basic inquiries and questions, and prevent fraud and abuse appears to be severely degraded,” he said. McMahon, speaking at a congressional hearing Thursday, thanked lawmakers for “providing SSA with the resources we have needed to begin this challenging process.” In particular, she said, those resources allowed the agency to hire more than 2,500 employees to work on implementation of the drug benefit, and the money allowed for extensive training of thousands of employees. At no point did she say the agency was under strain.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!