(AP) — Home after a seven-game road trip and with a Christmas Day showdown looming, it’d be easy for the Los Angeles Lakers to overlook the Milwaukee Bucks.
They might be able to get by even if they do.
The Lakers seek a sixth straight victory overall and a seventh in a row Tuesday over the Bucks, who looked lost in their first game without Brandon Jennings.
Los Angeles (21-7) needed a buzzer-beater to get past the Clippers on Dec. 8 to open its string of road games, then lost 88-84 in Chicago two nights later to fall to 3-5 in its last eight.
Any concerns of a rare early-season funk have since faded. Andrew Bynum returned last Tuesday and the Lakers finished the Eastern Conference portion of their trip with five wins by an average of 11.6 points, culminating in a 120-110 victory at Toronto on Sunday.
The Lakers’ reserves scored 57 points against the Raptors, led by 16 from Bynum.
“They’ve been solid this entire trip,” Kobe Bryant said. “They came in and gave us a big boost.”
Los Angeles hosts Miami on Saturday in a highly anticipated nationally televised tilt, but first must avoid looking past Milwaukee (10-16), which got some tough news Monday.
Jennings started to feel pain in his left foot Wednesday in a tight loss at San Antonio, but played again anyway Saturday in a 95-86 defeat against Utah. An exam later revealed a fracture, which will sideline the Bucks’ leading scorer for four to six weeks.
In addition, neither Carlos Delfino nor Corey Maggette is on the team’s current three-game trip after both have had concussion symptoms.
“No one’s going to feel sorry for us,” general manager John Hammond said. “We still have a job to do, that’s win every game that we take floor.”
Milwaukee didn’t get off to a good start without Jennings on Monday in Portland. The Bucks fell behind by 24 at halftime and shot 38.0 percent overall in a 106-80 loss.
“Obviously, we missed Brandon tonight,” center Andrew Bogut said. “His scoring and his penetration helps keep the floor spread. Teams are starting to really pound us now and we have to adjust.”
The Lakers certainly won’t be upset with Jennings’ absence. Jennings matched Bryant with 31 points in Milwaukee on Nov. 16, but Shannon Brown’s 21 points off the bench proved to be the difference in Los Angeles’ 118-107 victory – its sixth straight in the series.
Brown was also a difference-maker the last time the teams met at Staples Center. He had 19 points Jan. 10 as the Lakers won 95-77 despite missing an injured Pau Gasol.
Gasol looks healthy heading into this matchup after averaging 19.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in his last six games. His 60.1 career field-goal percentage versus Milwaukee is his best against any opponent.
Gasol, Bynum and Lamar Odom should certainly give Los Angeles an edge inside. The Lakers are averaging 46.6 points in the paint in December and surrendering 37.6.
They’re not letting teams beat them from the perimeter, either. Los Angeles has held its opposition to 31.7-percent shooting from 3-point range this month – second-best in the NBA.
Milwaukee has lost eight of the 11 games in which it’s been held under 31.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Updated December 21, 2010
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