The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night at Staples Center. With the Miami Heat scheduled to arrive on Thursday, the Lakers must be cautious and not overlook the Bucks, who have a winning record on the road and on the season.
The Lakers have been particularly vulnerable against speedy point guards, and the Bucks have two guards that fit that profile in Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. Over the past few games, Coach Mike D’Antoni has designated Kobe Bryant to guard speedy guards to make use of Bryant’s willingness to accept a challenge and use his height as a defensive weapon.
However, with both Jennings and Ellis threatening to overrun the Lakers’ defense, Steve Nash and company will need to help out Bryant on the perimeter as well as at the basket.
With Pau Gasol ruled out due to concussion, the Lakers have found a young previously unknown player who has displayed an ability to hit shots, run the floor, and play defense: Earl Clark. Clark has quickly become a fan favorite for his play on the floor and his soft spoken styled off it. “Eazy” has played more minutes than any other Laker over the past two games, and that trend should continue until Gasol returns.
The Lakers do possess an advantage at the center position with Dwight Howard back in the lineup. The Lakers’ center shot an efficient 9-11 from the field for 22 points to go along with his 14 rebounds against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night.
Howard missed three games with a shoulder injury prior to that performance. The Lakers lost all three games. Winning points in the paint and corralling rebounds is essential to the Lakers’ success, and Howard is a vital factor in both those areas.
The Bucks consistently play their bench players long minutes, and the Bucks’ sixth man is Mike Dunleavy. Dunleavy averages over 11 points per game on the season, and he scored 15 or more points in the Bucks’ last two win—at Toronto and at Chicago.
Dunleavy has struggled from behind the arc with a combined 1-9 in the Bucks’ last two losses—home defeats to the Detroit Pistons and the Phoenix Suns. Keeping Dunleavy off the three point line is as important as stopping the two speedy guards.
The Lakers are currently four games out of the playoffs. With January still offering games against Miami, Oklahoma City, at Memphis, and at Chicago, the Lakers need a win on Tuesday night against Milwaukee.