Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/16/13
LOS ANGELES -- Give credit to the ice running through his veins for Kobe Bryant's offensive prowess in his 17th NBA season. He does, after all, lead the league in scoring. But Bryant credits something else for his defense on Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, on Tuesday night. Still ice, just not in his veins. The Los Angeles Lakers put the clamps on the Milwaukee backcourt, and Bryant and Dwight Howard each scored 31 points in a 104-88 win over the Bucks at Staples Center. The Lakers won their second consecutive game by ratcheting up the defensive effort, a task that plagued the team during its recent six-game losing streak and for much of the season. Two days after holding the Cleveland Cavaliers to 41 percent shooting while leading by as much as 30 in a 20-point win at Staples Center, the Lakers held Milwaukee to 35.8 percent shooting (34-for-95). The Bucks shot just 7-for-28 from 3-point range, including a combined 3-for-15 from guards Monta Ellis and Jennings. "It's the ice baths I take," Bryant said with a laugh, something rare around these parts with the Lakers at just 17-21 on the season. "(I was) trying to disrupt (Jennings) as much as possible. There's a great deal of preparation involved in figuring out what he likes and where he likes to do it. Then it's a matter of stopping it as much as possible." Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said of Bryant, "He sets the tone defensively. When you have a guy hawking the ball like that, disrupting your offense, the energy he brings on the offensive end, it affects the offense. It's always imperative that he does that." Howard and Bryant, meanwhile, flashed an inside-outside game that also has been largely absent this season. The Lakers finished with 30 assists -- including 24 from the starters -- while committing just eight turnovers. Milwaukee had 15 assists and 11 turnovers. "That's good basketball," said Milwaukee interim coach Jim Boylan, who has led the Bucks to a 3-2 record since taking over for Scott Skiles on Jan. 8. "That's Basketball 101 -- move the ball, find each other, pass when you're covered, shoot when you're open. That's what they did, and they had guys making shots. They've been struggling a little bit with that some nights, and tonight they had it going." Howard had one of his best games in a Lakers uniform, as he hit 14 of 18 shots from the field, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked four shots. Bryant hit 12 of 19 field-goal attempts, including three of five 3-point tries, and he doled out six assists, all in the first half. "If I see a crack in the lane, I'm going to try to get him the ball," Bryant said. "We're starting to get a better connection." Added Boylan: "We're a long team, but we don't have the physical guys inside, so it was a big undertaking tonight for our guys. And Dwight was doing what he does. ... They got him going early. Kobe found him on a couple baskets early, and any time you can get yourself into rhythm like that early in the game, that's a big plus." Metta World Peace added 12 points and six rebounds and finished with a plus-minus rating of plus-27 for the Lakers. Steve Nash had 11 assists to go along with eight points. "We want to try to get (Howard) easy looks," Nash said. "For me, the idea is to get him opportunities near the basket. Those are easy, high-percentage shots, and they put pressure on the defense." While the Bucks' first unit struggled -- Ellis finished with 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting; Jennings had 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting while being hounded by Bryant -- Milwaukee's reserves outscored Los Angeles' 39-16. Beno Udrih had 14 points and seven assists off the bench for the Bucks (19-18), and Mike Dunleavy added 10 points. NOTES: With the win, D'Antoni became the 42nd coach in NBA history with at least 400 victories. ... Point guard Steve Blake (abdominal surgery) remains out for the Lakers, as does forward Pau Gasol (concussion). Gasol still has not passed the necessary neurological tests since being elbowed in the head by Denver's JaVale McGee on Jan. 6. He will be re-examined by a neurologist on Wednesday. ... Milwaukee won the lone matchup between the two teams last season, 100-89, on Jan. 28, 2012, at Bradley Center despite a game-high 27 points by Bryant. ... Jennings became the third Milwaukee player this season to win Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors, tying the Bucks for most in the NBA. ... Milwaukee leads the NBA in charges drawn, with Dunleavy (14) and Ersan Ilyasova (15) ranking in the top five, according to hoopdata.com.
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