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Bad Team Defense Leads to Losses

Times Staff Writer

Yet another reason the Lakers miss Kobe Bryant: defense.

The Lakers resembled pylons rather than players in Friday’s 109-103 loss to New Jersey. It was the fourth consecutive game that they have given up at least 100 points, the last three of which were Laker losses. To make matters worse, the Nets consistently got good looks and shot 53.1%.

“We have some really good individual defenders, but right now we’re not playing good team defense,” forward Lamar Odom said. “Team defense is rebounding, rotating, taking away open shots, communicating. We’re getting enough offense to win games.”

Bryant has been out since suffering a sprained ankle Jan. 13, and the Lakers have given up at least 100 points in six of the seven games that he has missed.

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Bryant has been named to the NBA all-defensive team five consecutive seasons. His absence has taken away the Lakers’ best one-on-one perimeter defender. Those that have filled in are not in his league, which was most apparent Friday.

“We had forwards trying to chase guards off picks,” Coach Rudy Tomjanovich said.

That helped lead to a shooting spree by the Nets.

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Kareem Rush returns to Staples Center tonight, when the Lakers play the expansion Charlotte Bobcats. Rush, who was traded by the Lakers for two second-round draft picks last month, has thrived since leaving his role as Bryant’s backup at shooting guard. He is averaging 12.6 points in the 24 games since the trade, 21 points in the last three.

On Friday, Rush scored nine of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to help the Bobcats end a 10-game losing streak with a 101-94 victory over Toronto.

“I’m trying to find my rhythm,” Rush said. “The first month I was here I wasn’t shooting the ball very well, but now I have hit my rhythm. The shots are falling. Hopefully, I can continue this pace.

“It’s going to be fun playing against my old teammates and friends. I’m excited to go back to California. I love it there. I loved playing for the Lakers the last couple years and it was a great experience. But now I’m here in Charlotte and I’m going to go out there and try to beat them.”

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TONIGHT

vs. Charlotte, 6:30, FSN West

Site -- Staples Center.

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Radio -- KLAC (570), KWKW (1330).

Records -- Lakers 22-19, Bobcats 9-31.

Record vs. Charlotte -- First meeting.

Update -- The Lakers have lost four consecutive games only three times since the 1994-95 season. Laker forward Luke Walton (sprained ankle) participated in drills Saturday and is listed as a game-time decision, but Tomjanovich does not expect him to play. Charlotte point guard Brevin Knight, the team leader in assists, has sat out the last five games because of a sprained left ankle.


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