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LAKERS 118 SACRAMENTO 108

Lakers almost blow their cover

They begin stretch against subpar teams with win over Kings, but soft defense leaves them dissatisfied.

November 24, 2008|Broderick Turner | Turner is a Times staff writer

This was supposed to be the start of an easy stretch for the Lakers, the first of several matchups against teams with losing records, a time for the Lakers to run by those subpar opponents.

Instead, the defense the Lakers paid so much attention to during training camp, the defense they all claimed would be the difference this season, was torched by a Sacramento Kings team that entered the game with the seventh-worst record in the NBA.

The Lakers won this game with their offense, their defense getting sliced apart during a 118-108 victory over the Kings on Sunday night at Staples Center.

The Lakers now have given up more than 100 points in three of their last five games.

That they won four of them doesn't solve the problem.

Their defense is leaking, and the Kings found plenty of holes to exploit, their 53.4% shooting a sign of how poor the Lakers were on defense.

"I'm not happy with this win," Kobe Bryant said. "I felt like we didn't particularly get better tonight. We could have played much more solid defensively."

The Lakers did that in building a 19-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter.

Then they stopped playing defense and the Kings made them play, closing to within four points midway through the fourth.

The Lakers collected themselves, but they did so offensively.

A quick 9-0 run gave the Lakers a 114-101 lead that stood.

Eight Lakers, including all five starters, scored in double figures. Bryant led the team with 24 points.

But it meant little to Bryant that it was the first time this season five Lakers starters scored in double figures.

"Offense comes easy to us," Bryant said. "Defense is the part we've really got to focus on. Whether we have all the guys in double figures, whatever it is, it means nothing. Winning a championship, you have to defend and you got to rebound. We'll do better next game."

The Kings scored 58 points in the paint. Their guards got the basket with ease, going by Lakers defenders frequently.

"They have a couple of guys that aren't great defensive players," Sacramento Coach Reggie Theus said. "Kobe is a great defensive player. Trevor [Ariza] is a great defensive player. But they have guys that aren't great defensive players."

Once shooting guard John Salmons (24 points, 11-for-19 shooting) and reserve guards Bobby Brown (21 points, eight for 13) and Bobby Jackson (15 points, seven for 13) got into the lane, they meet little resistance from the Lakers' big men.

The Kings were missing starters Kevin Martin (sprained left ankle) and Mikki Moore (sprained right ankle) and sixth man Francisco Garcia (strained right calf).

That made it all the more maddening for the Lakers.

"Well, defensively, we weren't happy with our game," Coach Phil Jackson said. ". . . Offensively, we were effective, although we turned the ball over an inordinate amount of times (17). But defensively, I thought we were poor."

The Lakers improved to 11-1, so they can take some solace in that.

"It's a mentality. We want to get better each game," Bryant said. "We don't want to give up 100 points. We want to hold [teams] under 100. So when you don't reach that goal, obviously it's disappointing."

The victory began a stretch in which eight of nine games will be against teams currently without winning records.

Next up for the Lakers are the New Jersey Nets (6-6) Tuesday night at Staples Center.

Then it will be Dallas (6-7) and Toronto (6-7) at home, Indiana (5-7), Philadelphia (7-6) and Washington (1-10) on the road, Milwaukee (7-8) at home and, finally, a game at Sacramento (5-10).

"It's one of those nights where you don't want to play a subpar game and end up losing and regret it because you didn't give the best effort," Jackson said. "But I thought our guys' effort was OK."

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broderick.turner@latimes.com

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