Lakers try a new angle
Somewhere deep inside Staples Center, the architect of the triangle offense tugged at his hair because of the distortion of so many sets on offense.
Nothing’s quite perfect with the Lakers these days, but all they needed was the return of their defense after a three-game siesta.
The Lakers held the Milwaukee Bucks to 38% shooting and shut down their top two scorers in a 105-92 victory Sunday at Staples Center.
Longtime Lakers consultant Tex Winter might not have been thrilled with the execution on offense, though the Lakers held Richard Jefferson to three points and Michael Redd to two points.
The Lakers once held a 27-point lead, but it was all but forgiven in the final minutes by fans who had something to cheer other than a free taco giveaway when the Lakers win and hold an opponent under 100 points.
Rookie Sun Yue delighted the crowd with four points and four fouls in a little more than five minutes of action in the fourth quarter, his first in the NBA.
That the fans could have fun watching a second-round pick from the 2007 draft could be mainly attributed to a defense that had been staggering in recent games.
After three substandard efforts in which the Lakers surrendered more than 100 points, they held the Bucks to 31 points in the first half and 54 points through three quarters and 34.3% shooting through three quarters.
“I thought our defense was exceptional for the first three quarters,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
It sagged a bit after Kobe Bryant checked out for good with 7:41 to play and the Lakers ahead, 85-63. But, unlike Friday’s near-loss to Washington, Bryant was able to take a seat and stay there.
“We played defense the way that we know and I think that was a step in the right direction,” Bryant said.
Bryant has had some good head-to-head tests against Redd over the years -- who could forget Redd’s 45-point outburst in November 2006 against the Lakers? -- but there were no theatrics from Redd or the Bucks on Sunday.
Redd made only one of six shots. Jefferson made only one of four and played fewer than 10 minutes.
“We kept Jefferson and Redd really quiet tonight,” Jackson said.
It looked like it would be the Lakers’ night when Vladimir Radmanovic dunked over Bucks center Andrew Bogut after a baseline move in the first quarter.
Radmanovic, who had 11 points and five rebounds, added another dunk in the third quarter on a feed from Pau Gasol.
Bryant finished with 20 points and eight assists.
It didn’t sit well with everybody, though.
Jackson didn’t like that the Lakers tried to do too many things off the dribble instead off passing the ball.
Neither did Winter, who once wrote a 320-page book about the share-the-ball triangle offense.
“Tex is foaming at the mouth down there in the coaches’ office right now,” Jackson said. “He wanted his money back at halftime. Now he wants to make sure that we take the triangle offense out of any connection with him.”
Jackson made good on his pledge to give fewer important minutes to the reserves, putting in Bryant and Andrew Bynum to start the fourth quarter, along with Jordan Farmar, Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom.
After Bryant left, the Bucks scored 29 points in the final 7:41 and cut the lead to 11, though the Lakers were never seriously threatened.
Not that Bryant was overly pleased with the second unit, which again failed to hold a late lead.
“I’ll smack them around a little bit,” he said jokingly.
After an unsteady 2-1 trip against East teams, Sunday served as a fair warmup for a busy period of four games in six days.
The Lakers play in Sacramento on Tuesday, a place where they have won four consecutive games.
“We’re ready to get back out on the road,” Bryant said.