“We don’t have any All-Stars or that big-name player on this team. So, we have to go out there and outwork our opponents every night,” the first-year coach said.
After missing 18 of their first 21 shots and falling behind 15-2, the Bucks stormed back to rout the Chicago Bulls 98-68 on Saturday, giving Porter, a Milwaukee native, a win in his home coaching debut.
“Knowing how he was as a player, we’re just trying to go out there and take his image onto the floor,” said Milwaukee’s Joe Smith, who had 19 points and nine rebounds. “That’s what we have to do every night.”
Milwaukee will have to work very hard to overcome the plethora of talent the Lakers have.
Los Angeles is coming off an 87-72 home win over Golden State, improving to 3-0 on the young season.
The Lakers didn’t look as impressive offensively as they had in their first two wins, but did get 21 points out of the embattled Bryant, who made his home debut.
“We didn’t play as clean or as pretty basketball as we’d like to see,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We’re capable of playing down to a level. That’s always difficult because you want a team to play above their level. Some nights you play there and you get mired in a game where you can’t break free.”
Bryant, who is still awaiting trial on sexual assault charges in Colorado, looked strong in his second straight game since sitting out the season opener. His surgically repaired knee held up for 35 minutes, two less than he played in his season debut Saturday in Phoenix.
“My knee feels very good, it’s doing surprisingly well,” he said. “I knew it felt strong at the beginning of the game. Last night was kind of a test to see what type of moves I can make offensively and defensively, so tonight I went in and played with more confidence.”
All five Lakers starters scored in double figures for the second straight game.
“Everybody is getting involved. Karl Malone and Gary (Payton) said it best, `On any given night, you better pick your poison,”’ O’Neal said. “Guys are moving the ball, they’re playing very, very unselfish. It’s actually fun to watch.”
Milwaukee will have to be at its best defensively to slow down Los Angeles.
“This is the best defensive team I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said fourth-year guard Michael Redd, who grabbed 11 rebounds Saturday. “This is the best we’ve ever scrapped and played hard every possession.”
STANDINGS (through Nov. 2): Lakers - 1st place, Pacific Division. Bucks - 3rd place (tied), 1 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Lakers - O’Neal, 19.0 ppg and 11.7 rpg; Payton, 9.7 apg. Bucks - Redd, 17.7 ppg and 8.7 rpg; Ford, 7.0 apg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Lakers, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: March 15; Lakers, 98-94; At Milwaukee, the Lakers rallied from a 15-point halftime deficit with a 23-8 third-quarter run. O’Neal led the way with 24 points and Bryant added 20. Redd had 21 to lead Milwaukee.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lakers - 1-0 on the road; Bucks - 1-0 at home.