While their former general manager might not think much of how the Los Angeles Lakers play defense, the team itself and most of the NBA might beg to differ.
Especially, the Sacramento Kings.
Coming off another solid defensive effort, the Lakers look to further flex their muscle on that end of the court while trying for a ninth straight victory over the Kings on Friday night at Staples Center.
Hall-of-Famer and former Lakers general manager Jerry West predicted last week at a speech in southern California, that the age of the two-time defending NBA champions will catch up to them.
“We’ve been pretty good on defense all year,” he said. “The numbers don’t lie.”
Though 10 of the Lakers are 30 or older - including Bryant (32), Derek Fisher(notes) (36), Ron Artest(notes) (31) and Pau Gasol(notes) (30) - they are giving up 96.3 points per game and have allowed fewer than 100 in 21 of 25 contests.
“We focus in on defense game-to-game,” 31-year-old forward Lamar Odom(notes) told the Lakers’ official website. “It makes all the difference. That’s where you get better and it’s starting to show a little.”
Los Angeles (33-13) held Utah to 41.9 percent shooting en route to its 10th win in 12 games, 120-91 on Tuesday.
Sacramento (10-33) likely would echo that sentiment.
The Kings have averaged 90.0 points and shot 42.3 percent while going 0-2 against the Lakers this season. Sacramento shot 40.3 percent and committed 21 turnovers in a 113-80 loss on Dec. 3 at Los Angeles.
Los Angeles, which shot 56.6 percent that in that contest, has made 50.5 percent of its shots and averaged 113.7 points during a six-game home winning streak over the Kings.
Bryant had 22 points versus Sacramento last month, but is averaging 31.8 his last five games against the Kings.
Despite the recent success versus Sacramento, Odom expects the Lakers not to suffer a letdown after dominating the playoff-contending Jazz.
“We’re a mature team that’s used to playing in big games, but we realize that we have a team in front of us in Sacramento that’s going to come in here and play hard on our floor,” Odom said. “It will be easy to remain focused.”
The Kings hope to put up a better fight than in their last meeting with Lakers, and more like the one during a 119-112 overtime win at Portland on Monday.
Sacramento made half its shots from the field against the Trail Blazers, then shot 36.0 percent the next night in a 94-89 home loss to Charlotte.
“We have had a lot of ups and downs,” forward Omri Casspi(notes) told the Kings’ official website. “Unfortunately, we managed to lose a lot of games, which were close games for us. It’s something we want to change this half of the season.”