Lakers-Bobcats Preview

Injuries are forcing the Los Angeles Lakers to use Kobe Bryant

as a point guard, and his coach, Mike D’Antoni, is continuing to

feud with Pau Gasol.

Oh, and the Lakers are also mired in their longest losing streak

of the season after a lopsided defeat last time out.

While some of their other woes might not go away quickly, the

Lakers will at least try to snap a three-game skid Saturday night

by sending the host Charlotte Bobcats to a season-high third

consecutive defeat.

Already missing point guards Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar to

injuries, the Lakers won’t have Steve Blake for at least six weeks

because of a torn ligament in his right elbow. That meant Los

Angeles (10-12) had to find a substitute in Bryant, who was playing

his third game Friday since returning from a torn left


The Lakers star had 13 assists – two shy of matching a career

high – but scored just four points on 2-of-6 shooting in a 122-97

drubbing in Oklahoma City, which dropped Los Angeles to 0-3 since

his return.

Bryant, who had 20 points in a 114-108 loss to Phoenix on

Tuesday, sat out the fourth quarter. The team’s two leading scorers

– Nick Young (17 points) and Xavier Henry (15) – in Friday’s game

were reserves.

“There is no secret formula that you can sprinkle out there,”

D’Antoni said. “(Bryant will) get more comfortable, then the guys

will get more comfortable around him and then he’ll do a better


Gasol had 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and seven rebounds

against the Thunder after D’Antoni responded sharply to his

criticism of his role in the offense. The Lakers coach told the

league’s website before Friday’s game that Gasol’s discomfort was

“a nice excuse not to play hard.”

“The message is the same to everybody: Just play hard and we’ll

figure it out,” D’Antoni added. “If you don’t play hard, it’s hard

to figure out what works and what doesn’t work.”

Gasol is shooting a career-low 42.3 percent this season but has

made 12 of 21 shots (57.1 percent) in the past two contests and

will try to keep that going against the Bobcats (10-13).

Charlotte won back-to-back games and topped 100 points in its

first two games without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is out four to

six weeks because of a broken hand, before losing its past two.

The Bobcats shot 36.9 percent in a 92-83 loss to Orlando on

Wednesday and had a three-game home win streak snapped. Charlotte

then failed to pull out a competitive game Friday against the team

with the league’s best record.

The Bobcats led Indiana by one point with 4:19 to go but scored

just four points down the stretch in a 99-94 loss.

”We had them where we wanted,” said center Al Jefferson, who

had a team-best 21 points and nine rebounds. “We didn’t do a great

job getting back on defense. We played a heck of a game. We had a

chance there at the end to be exactly where we wanted to against a

good team. We were right there.”

Charlotte has lost four straight to the Lakers but had won three

consecutive home matchups before a 100-93 loss Feb. 8. Bryant had

20 points in that victory, and he’s averaged 28.7 in 16 career

matchups, his most against any opponent.