The Lakers (16-21) look to build a winning streak on Tuesday night, hosting the Milwaukee Bucks (19-17) at Staples Center.
The Bucks have been playing well since the departure of Scott Skiles. Jim Boylan, acting as interim-head coach, has Milwaukee winning three of their last four games. Point guard Brandon Jennings may be playing some the best ball of his career.
While the Bucks don't have much inside, rookie John Henson is coming off one of his best games of the year, scoring 19 points against the Toronto Raptors. Milwaukee instead relies on defensive players like Larry Sanders, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Ekpe Udoh while getting most of the scoring from their guards.
The Lakers will play without Pau Gasol again (concussion) but Dwight Howard returned on Sunday from a shoulder injury.
Coach Mike D'Antoni wants Kobe Bryant to guard opposing point guards. The goal would be to have Bryant's length, aggression and experience on a player like Jennings.
While Bryant may not be able to shut down a younger, faster point guard, he may be able to disrupt the offense enough to throw teams off. The experiment worked against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving. When the Lakers made a late run against the Clippers, Bryant on Chris Paul was a big part of the Lakers' comeback.
Bryant will probably be guarded by small forward Mbah a Moute, who in turn may be defended by Steve Nash.
Cross matching on defense can be difficult, especially in transition, but that may be a problem for both sides on Tuesday night.
If Bryant is on Jennings, Metta World Peace would probably get the assignment on high-scoring guard Monta Ellis. Ellis is much quicker than World Peace. It will be interesting to see if the Lakers can contain Milwaukee's duo of high-scoring guards.
Mike Dunleavy has been a solid, veteran presence for the Bucks. His ability to shoot and play-make at 6'9" makes him a difficult cover.
The Lakers are not far from the eighth seed but to climb into playoff contention, they'll have to take care teams like the Bucks at every opportunity.
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