The Los Angeles Lakers finally may be getting the hang of coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo offense, which may be in for one of its toughest tests against the defensive-minded Indiana Pacers.
Los Angeles begins a three-game homestand Tuesday night versus the Pacers, who will be kicking off a four-game road trip with the first of three straight games in California.
Los Angeles, which improved to 2-2 under D'Antoni, hit 12 3-pointers, including five from World Peace, for the third straight game. It hit 10 or more only four times all of last season - with 12 being the high once - and has already equaled that total.
Bryant is averaging 26.9 points while shooting 51.0 percent from the field this year. His highest field goal percentage in a season is 46.9 in 2001-02.
"I think the system has a lot to do with it," Bryant said of his efficiency. "We're spaced out a little bit more, I can penetrate and get to the free-throw line a lot more. I have more lanes to the basket. We don't have people on the block or in the post all the time, so it enables me to drive to the rim, draw fouls and get to the free-throw line a lot."
Dwight Howard finished with 15 points and Pau Gasol added 13 on Saturday. They each combined for 14 points in the previous two games, and neither sees the ball much in the post in D'Antoni's system.
"Me and Pau want to get as many touches as we can on the block, but we have to dictate that by running the floor and being active," Howard said. "If we don't get the ball, make up for it on the defensive end and get stops."
That's something Indiana (6-8) hopes to do after having three days off, giving coach Frank Vogel extra practice time with his team that ranks third in the NBA allowing 92.2 points per game.
The Pacers, though, are coming off a 104-97 loss to San Antonio on Friday after a 115-107 overtime win over New Orleans two days earlier. David West scored a team-high 22 points for Indiana, which is in the midst of playing 12 of its first 18 on the road.
It faces Sacramento on Friday and Golden State on Saturday before finishing this trip at Chicago on Dec. 4.
"I encourage our guys to keep any frustrations in perspective and understanding that we play 41 at home and 41 on the road," Vogel said. "We're weathering the storm of an early, tough part of our schedule. Manage it, stay in the hunt and we'll have our run."
It won't get any easier against a Lakers team that Vogel said creates plenty of matchup problems, especially given the up-tempo style of offense.
"Probably Howard and Kobe on anybody that we have," Vogel said of the most difficult matchups. "They are guys that warrant double teams and we have to be ready for everything."
Indiana beat Los Angeles 98-96 in the most recent meeting Jan. 22 despite 33 points from Bryant, who is averaging 35.0 points in his last three versus the Pacers.
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