Monday, March 17, 2008

Locking up Kobe

What’s the relationship between the numbers 62, 52, 43 and 40? Those are some of Kobe Bryant’s scoring outbursts against the Mavs in recent seasons. There’s no question where the defensive focus is Tuesday night.

“Last time he shot 27 free throws,” Avery Johnson said, referring to how Bryant scored an NBA season-high 52 points in the Lakers’ 108-104 overtime win on March 2. “We can’t get him on the line 27 times.

“Yesterday against Houston, he shoots four. If he shoots 27 free throws yesterday, they probably win, right? So we’ve got to try to do a better job of defending him without fouling.”

The Lakers fell at Houston and out of the top spot in the Western Conference. Josh Howard will open against Bryant, but slowing down the league’s second-leading scorer will take a concerted team approach. Helping matters is the return of Devean George, who logged 21 minutes Sunday after missing three games with a sore lower back.

“We like that he got some good minutes and we want to see him really do well with that second unit,” Johnson said of George.

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