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Lakers' defense will get tested by Suns, Nuggets

L.A.'s leaky defense will face Phoenix (twice) and Denver over the next three games. Suns and Nuggets are among league leaders in points scored.

February 26, 2009|Broderick Turner

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson described his team's defense against a lowly Minnesota Timberwolves team that was playing Sunday without its best player as "pathetic."

It was enough of a concern for Jackson that Monday's practice was all about finding a solution to the Lakers' defensive problems.

The Lakers straightened it out against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, but the Lakers will face two offense-minded teams in the coming days that will test their defensive mettle.

"That's a matter of focus," Jackson said after practice Wednesday. "The depth of the season and the pressure that the amount of games puts on you, sometimes your defense becomes lax, and we just knew that we could outscore everybody. That's a complacency that you don't want to get caught in."

Defense has been a season-long theme for the Lakers.

They are tied for 18th in most points given up (100.6).

They lead the NBA in scoring (108.9), but it is their defensive woes that keep causing a stir.

"I think we could push ourselves defensively a little bit more, compete against ourselves," Lamar Odom said. "I think right now sometimes we look at a team's record, who they've got on the court, kind of play down to the level of our competition."

The Lakers' next three games are against teams that can score.

They meet the Phoenix Suns tonight at Staples Center, followed by a trip to Denver to play the Nuggets on Friday, then a rematch Sunday with the Suns at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

The Suns are averaging 106.5 points per game, third-best in the NBA. The Nuggets average 103.1 points per game, sixth-best in the league.

Jackson noted that both the Suns and Nuggets "are highly potent offenses."

"If you don't play defense and you just have to try and outscore teams like that, you're going to get caught in a bind," he said.

Marbury to Boston?

The question brought a smile to Jackson's face.

He was asked to respond to the New York Knicks buying out the contract of controversial guard Stephon Marbury on Tuesday and the reports that he'll sign with the Boston Celtics once he clears waivers.

"How much did he get when he got bought out? Did he get as much as Citibank got?" Jackson mused, laughing, referring to the government bailout of the banking giant. "He might have to give Citibank a loan."

Jackson was told it was unclear how much Marbury received of his $20.8-million contract.

But once Marbury clears waivers Friday morning, he can sign with the Celtics for a prorated amount of the veteran minimum of $1.3 million.

"He's a great athlete," Jackson said. "How he conforms to their system is yet to be seen. But his athleticism, his ability to shoot the ball, his ability to get shots on his own, those are things you can't teach."

Jackson said the Lakers, who have one roster spot open, didn't consider Marbury because they have enough guards.

The Celtics also signed 7-foot center Mikki Moore, who was waived by the Sacramento Kings. "That's a great pickup for them," Jackson said.

Injury updates

Lakers center Andrew Bynum, out since Jan. 31 after he tore a ligament in his right knee, has been riding a bike and working out on an exercise machine the last several days, a Lakers spokesman said.

Bynum still is expected to be out another 4 1/2 to 8 1/2 weeks.

The Lakers said the right ankle Kobe Bryant tweaked during Tuesday night's game was not a problem and that he would play tonight.



Lakers tonight


Time: 7:30.

On the air: TV: TNT; Radio: 570, 1330.

Where: Staples Center.

Records: Lakers 47-10; Suns 32-24.

Record vs. Suns: 2-0.

Update: The Lakers have won five straight games and the Suns have gone 4-1 since former Clippers coach Alvin Gentry took over the Suns' job after Terry Porter was fired. The four wins came against the Clippers (twice), Oklahoma City Thunder and Charlotte Bobcats, all teams under .500. The Suns are without All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire, who has a detached retina in his right eye and is expected to be out until the end of the regular season. Suns guard Steve Nash is a game-time decision after he suffered a sprained right ankle during Tuesday night's game against the Bobcats.

-- Broderick Turner

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