The Lakers went back to work Monday in search of ways to correct a defense that failed them Sunday night against the Sacramento Kings, even though the Lakers won the game.
The theme at practice was simple: Stop dribble penetration. Contain the guards.
The Lakers were unsuccessful in doing that against Sacramento's trio of guards. John Salmons, Bobby Brown and Bobby Jackson accounted for 60 of the Kings' 108 points. They shot a sizzling 57.7% (26 for 45) from the field and seemingly got to the basket at will.
The Lakers' backcourt will be challenged again tonight when it faces New Jersey's guard duo of Vince Carter and Devin Harris at Staples Center.
"The first sequence that comes in a situation like that is stopping penetration," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "You stop that and usually the ball stops. We didn't do a relatively good job on defense, I thought, containing some of the better guards last week."
It won't get easier -- Carter and Harris are in the top 10 in scoring in the NBA. Carter is averaging 24.2 points per game and Harris is averaging 23.2.
Harris, the point guard, is fast and quick and is adept at penetrating, something the Lakers want to slow down.
"I think their backcourt players carry the bulk of their scoring," Derek Fisher said. "So I think we can expect that offensively a lot of what they do will be run through those guys. . . . Our defense will have to be geared more toward stopping penetration and stopping backcourt play."
Center Andrew Bynum plays a key role in how the Lakers defend.
Bynum said he has to show up on defense to slow down the guard on screen-and-rolls. But Bynum said when he helps on defense, a teammate has to cover for him.
"We're failing on both ends," Bynum said. "I'm failing to get out there early and then if I do ever get out there early, we fail to pick up my guy. So, we've got a lot of work."
Kobe versus Vince
When Kobe Bryant goes up against Carter, as he will tonight, it's always an intriguing matchup.
Bryant averaged 18.5 points against the Nets in two games last season, with a high of 31. Carter averaged 23, with a high of 27.
"They really enjoy competing against each other," Jackson said. "This is a matchup that is kind of an interesting one to watch."
The Lakers blew all but four points of their 19-point lead Sunday against the Kings.
It's something the Lakers have done with regularity this season, and to a man, they say it must stop.
But the question is: Why are the Lakers allowing this to happen?
"I have no idea," Bynum said. "Young players, I guess. I don't know. We have to figure it out. I don't know how to stop it."