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Five things to watch in Lakers-Bucks game

January 28, 2012 |  2:00 pm


Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (11-8) visit the Milwaukee Bucks (7-11) on Saturday  evening at the Bradley Center:

1. The Lakers can't take Milwaukee for granted. On paper, the Lakers should beat Milwaukee. The Lakers arrived in Milwaukee Friday while the Bucks played at Chicago. Milwaukee lost center Andrew Bogut between eight to 12 weeks because of a left ankle fracture. And Bucks guard Stephen Jackson, who surely would've goaded into contentious play with Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace, will serve a one-game suspension after verbally abusing official in Milwaukee's game against Chicago.

But the Lakers have a 1-6 road record and haven't established any definitive pattern in their development. As much effort as the Lakers have brought in each game, their execution has proved spotty at best. It's scary for Laker fans to think this. But if the season were to end today, the Lakers would play as an eighth seed. The Lakers will likely improve as the season progresses, but their current standing reflects how much work they have to reach that point.

2. The Lakers need to establish an inside game. With Bogut out of the lineup, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol should face a field day inside. Drew Gooden remains physical, but appears prone to foul trouble.  Ersan Ilyasova proves only to be a capable rebounder. That means the first priority involves the Lakers getting the bigs invovled. Bynum must demonstrate improvement with handling double teams. Gasol needs to replicate the aggressiveness he displayed against the Clippers. And of course, Kobe Bryant needs to grant them those opportunities when they're open.

This should be a pretty easy dynamic. But for varying reasons including Bryant's scoring tendencies, Gasol's inconsistent aggressiveness, Bynum's learning curve through doiuble teams and Mike Brown's overt defeference to Bryant, makes the the pecking order more difficult than it should be.

3. The Lakers will face a challenge at the point guard spot. This test comes in the form of Brandon Jennings. The Dominguez High School product played pickup ball seemingly everywhere in Los Angeles during the lockout. His numbers have improved from last season to a 20-game stretch so far in points (16.2, 20.4) and field-goal percentage (39%, 44.1%). He's talked trash with Kobe Bryant in the past, even suggesting he shouldn't appear in any Drew League game since the Lakers star went to Lower Merion High School outside Philadelphia. And yeah, since when have the Lakers been successfull in shutting down a lightning quick point guard?

4. Can Andrew Goudelock replicate his career-high effort against the Clippers? Goudelock hardly has injured his trip so far. He spent Friday night at a Milwaukee hospital and receive treatment for dehydration. He's cleared to play against the Bucks, but it remains to be seen how that will affect his production.

It already remained to be seen whether he could build off his career-high 14 point effort Wednesday against the Clippers. But Lakers Coach Mike Brown made it clear he will assume backup point guard duty at least until Steve Blake returns from a rib injury. His performance against Milwaukee will help answer whether he's prepared long-term for an elevated role.

5. Milwaukee can force turnovers. The Bucks rank fifth-best in the league by causing opponents to committ 16.8 turnovers per game. Though the Lakers rank 10th by committing 15 per game, that number hardly looks impressive. They were also prone at the beginning of the season by making sloppy mistakes on offense. With how flimsy the Lakers' identity remain, it's plausible that number can creep back up against Milwaukee.


Brandon Jennings says Kobe Bryant shouldn't appear in Drew League

--Mark Medina

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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is called for an offensive foul after colliding with Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut during the second half of a 2010-11 regular-season game. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / U.S. Presswire