Extra! Extra! (12.7)
Freezing cold temperatures in Milwaukee didn't keep the Lakers from lighting up the Bradley Center Tuesday night. L.A. shot a smooth 48% and had four starters score in double figures, whipping the Bucks 111-92. Kobe knocked in 33 (on 14-24), while Lamar Odom contributed a near triple double.
Phil Jackson played the matchup game, starting Sasha Vujacic in the backcourt, bumping Kobe to the three, and sitting forward Brian Cook, all to counter Milwaukee's three guard lineup (not a bad idea, considering what Minnesota did to the Lakers when they went small). It worked, as the Lakers got on a roll early behind Kobe's scoring and the very disruptive play of Smush Parker.
Milwaukee was expecting a boring, one-dimensional squad on Tuesday, while the Bucks were supposed to have great team play and outwork the opposition. Didn't happen.
First Kobe, now Odom. The Lakers forward/guard/handyman is once again ready to throw his hat in the Olympic ring. Odom was one of the few bright spots for Larry Brown's disappointing Athens squad, wants another crack at gold, and is ready to make the required three year commitment. One Laker who probably won't be heading to Beijing is Kwame Brown, who accompanied the team on their six game trip, but isn't yet ready to play.
Like Wednesday night's opponent, the Raptors, defense has been a struggle for the Lakers, who are trying to find an identity while fighting an illustrious history. The Showtime roster of the past is at this point a distant memory (at least, apparently, to Canadians). Regardless, the Lakers will go for their first three game winning streak of the year (baby steps) tonight against Chris Bosh and the Raptors. C'mon, raise your hand if you miss those old, cartoon dinosaur uniforms they used to wear. Don't be shy.
Finally, ESPN's Greg Anthony predicts both the Lakers and the Clippers will make the West's Elite 8 and play some playoff basketball... but not by much.