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Preview: Lakers at Milwaukee Bucks

March 28, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings gets past Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki for a layup in a game at Dallas.
Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings gets past Mavericks power… (Tony Gutierrez / Associated…)

The Lakers (37-35) look to win on consecutive nights for the first time this season, visiting the Bucks (34-36) in Milwaukee on Thursday.

In 14 tries, the Lakers haven't won a single back-to-back set.  After a win in Minnesota against the Timberwolves on Wednesday, the Lakers have the opportunity to finally break that streak -- and protect their eighth-place position in the West.

The Dallas Mavericks (35-36) are just a game and a half behind the Lakers. They host the Indiana Pacers on Thursday. The Utah Jazz (36-36) are idle.

The Bucks are coming off a 100-92 loss in Philadelphia to the 76ers. Brandon Jennings was held scoreless, playing just 17 minutes.

The Lakers defeated the Bucks at Staples Center in mid-January with Kobe Bryant defending point guard Jennings -- holding him to 13 points and one assist on 4-14 shooting.

Bryant has since moved to small forward, with Metta World Peace out for the rest of the regular season with a knee injury. Jodie Meeks is the likely starter at shooting guard.

Key matchup

Monta Ellis is an explosive scorer, leading Milwaukee with 19.5 points a game. He's also a consistent playmaker with 5.8 assists a game.

Ellis doesn't have tremendous range, hitting 27% from three-point range, but he forces two steals a game. Turnovers are a regular issue for the Lakers, and Ellis can be disruptive. When he gets hot, he can carry the Bucks to a win.

The Lakers need Bryant to carry his normal scoring load -- but more important, the Lakers all-star guard needs to look to involve his teammates. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol provide a size advantage against the Bucks. Bryant needs to exploit that by sharing.

X-factor

In his third season, Larry Sanders has emerged as an elite shot-blocker, notching three a game. The Bucks need to disrupt Howard and Gasol, and Sanders is their best hope.

Sanders erases a lot of his teammates' mistakes at the rim. The Lakers need to go right at him to try to get him into foul trouble.

Gasol had a strong performance against the Timberwolves, starting to return to form after sitting for six weeks with a foot injury.

Howard had 25 points and 16 rebounds; Gasol scored 17 with nine boards. They combined to shoot 17-25 (68%) from the field.

If the Lakers are going to have any success in the final 10 regular-season games and, potentially, the playoffs, Gasol needs to flourish.

Outlook

The Lakers haven't won on back-to-back nights all year. Is there any specific reason to think the result on Thursday will be any different?

ALSO:

Phil Jackson joins Twitter

Lakers hold off Timberwolves, 120-117

Metta World Peace needs knee surgery, will miss at least six weeks

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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