Bucks 109, Lakers 105

No matter how much the Lakers struggled to break Milwaukee’s zone on offense, you always have to point to defense first when you give up 109 points at home. The Lakers struggled to stop not just Michael Redd – – whose 45 points might be the most by an opposing player all season – – but the rest of the Bucks as well.

Milwaukee was playing without Charlie Villanueva or Bobby Simmons and put a starting lineup on the floor with four players 6-foot-6 or shorter. One thing the Bucks did with great sucess was play their big man away from the basket, which opened up the lane for easy baskets. The Lakers still can’t stop players from getting to the rim.

The Bucks totaled 56 points in the paint and shot 50.6 percent as a team. The Lakers also were called for four defensive three-second violations, which Milwaukee turned into three free points. If you take the technicals called on Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom, the Bucks margin of victory came on technical free throws.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on defending Redd: “We really didn’t focus on him the way we wanted to focus on him with double-teams to get the ball out of his hands and make him pass the ball.”

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Even on nights like Tuesday, when he makes 7 of 23 shots, Bryant’s value to the Lakers is unmistakable. The Lakers were outscored 20-6 with Bryant off the court for 6:56 in the game. They outscored the Bucks 99-89 in the 41:04 that Bryant played.

The three 3-pointers Bryant hit in the third quarter kept the Lakers in the game, although it’s worth noting that Bryant took more 3s Tuesday than he did in his 81-point game against Toronto back in January.

Jackson also has noticed a trend in how referees have treated Bryant the past couple of games. Bryant shot only seven free throws – – one of which came on a technical – – in Tuesday’s game.

It looks like the referees arent going to bail him out,” Jackson said, “give him free throws.”

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Between them, Andrew Bynum and Kwame Brown combined to score five points, take two shots and grab seven rebounds in 43 minutes. Jackson said facing a zone defense should have been a “big man’s dream” but it didn’t turn out that way.

The Lakers lob a pass over the top to Bynum early but that was about the extent to which they looked inside.

Our big men just didnt react to that the way they should react,” Jackson said. “They might have gotten frustrated that we were chucking up a lot of 3s. Those rebounds bounce pretty long rather than being in the lane or around the basket.

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Assistant coach Frank Hamblen, who was in charge of preparing the scouting report, stayed home from the game with flu-like symptoms.

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Forward Brian Cook was back with the team after battling a respiratory infection but did not dress for the game. Cook said he thought he got sick from family members who stayed with him recently, specifically his 2-year-old nephew.

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Jackson has noticed one important change in Odom this season. In the past, the coach said, Odom had trouble concentrating on things as simple as listening to instructions from the bench on the opposite end of the court.

“This year I think his focus has been better, Jackson said. “Im pleased with that.

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By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

There are no certainties left for the Lakers, not after losing Tuesday night to the Milwaukee Bucks for the first time in more than five years, not after deciding the answer to a zone defense was to take a franchise-record 37 3-pointers.

The end result was a 109-105 loss in which Milwaukee guard Michael Redd finished with 45 points – – the most by an opposing player this season – – and delivered 18 in the fourth quarter as the Bucks built a 13-point lead that the Lakers could not overcome.

It was a staggering defeat both because the Lakers had beaten the Bucks in 10 consecutive games dating to March 2001 as well as because they had been 8-1 at Staples Center before Tuesday.

There was a chance for the Lakers in the end, as Jordan Farmar and Luke Walton connected on 3-pointers in the desperate last minute. The Lakers made 11 of 37 3-pointers Tuesday, 5 of 17 in the fourth quarter.

Redd lost the ball out of bounds after he was trapped on an inbounds pass by Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom. That gave possession back to the Lakers with 16.3 seconds remaining, trailing 108-105.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson had Odom inbound the ball to Bryant, hoping Bryant would fire a return pass to Odom, whose momentum would carry him right into a 3-pointer.

Bryant was defended by forward Ruben Patterson, the self-proclaimed “Kobe stopper from his days in Portland. Bryant backed down Patterson, then dribbled back outside the arc and missed a wild 3-pointer with six seconds remaining.

We checked off, Jackson said, “and Kobe took the challenge and tried to make the shot.

Bryant finished with 27 points on 7 of 23 shooting, 6 of 14 from 3-point range. He kept the Lakers in the game by drilling three 3-pointers in the third quarter but went 3 of 8 – – all from 3-point range – – in the fourth.

The Lakers also were unable to use Bryant against Redd in the second half, as Bryant picked up his fourth foul in the final minute of the third quarter. With Bryant on the bench to start the fourth, Redd scorched the Lakers for 13 points in three minutes.

Odom boiled over after he blocked Redd only to have the Bucks guard wrestle the ball away from him. Redd scored as part of a three-point play while Odom thought he had been fouled and slammed the ball in frustration.

That drew Odom a technical foul. Redd hit both free throws in what was a four-point swing and followed with a 3-pointer on the next possession to put Milwaukee ahead 92-82.

“That was a little frustrating, Odom said. “Ive got one guy on my back, Im fighting for the ball. I got the rebound kind of clear. I guess the whistle went his way all night. He won tonight.

Redd had more points Tuesday than he scored in two games against the Lakers last season. His career scoring average against the Lakers was his lowest against any NBA team.

Farmar played ahead of Smush Parker the last 17-plus minutes and split the zone as soon as he checked in during the third quarter. But Farmar went 1 for 5 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter, with Jackson concluding the rookie “ran out of gas.

For as much as Jackson has talked about the zone as being a soft defense, the Bucks used it to great success in the first half. They fell behind 13-4 in the opening minutes, switched to a zone, and went into halftime leading 52-47.

The Lakers stalled in trying to break the zone and wound up taking 14 3-pointers, making only three of them. They might have been lured into a false sense of confidence having made a season-high 12 3-pointers in Sundays victory over New Jersey.

“Its obvious when you look at how many 3-point shots we got, Jackson said. “Thats what players like to do against a zone is attack it with the 3-point shot. . . . Penetrations always the key in basketball and this team forgot about penetration.