Dealing with Bryant takes some planning

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:14 PM ET

Jalen Rose has a solid game plan for Kobe Bryant. "He's definitely a guy where you've got to go to bed early at night and not invite your family and friends to the game because he could possibly embarrass you," the Raptors' leading scorer said when asked about facing Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers today in front of an expected sellout crowd at the Air Canada Centre.

If the Raptors give Bryant the same treatment as they did in their previous game, the Toronto players should all adopt Rose's strategy of not handing out any free tickets.

Bryant exploded for 48 points in the Lakers' 117-99 win over the visiting Raptors on Dec. 28. Bryant is second in the NBA with a 27.5 points-per-game average.

"It's going to be up to my teammates to help out," said Morris Peterson, who will be assigned to guard Bryant. "I don't think one person can stop Kobe. It's going to be a total team effort just like it was (Friday) with Michael Redd (of the Milwaukee Bucks)."

While the Raptors clearly are not the basketball equivalent of the defensively gifted New Jersey Devils, they have improved without the ball in their two games since the all-star break, both road wins. The Raptors held the New Jersey Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks to a field goal percentage of under 40% and didn't allow stars Vince Carter and Redd to take over games.

With Peterson assigned to Redd Friday, the Bucks' marquee player scored just 14 points on 5-of-20 shooting.

"It's just hustle," Raptors forward Chris Bosh said. "We're helping everybody out and knowing what we have to do to get back into the playoff race. Now, when the lights come on, we're more focused on defence. We're more focused on stops rather than scoring."

Peterson feels the communication on defence also has improved.

"We're talking on defence," he said. "A lot of times this year, we weren't communicating and we weren't helping each other. It's all about being accountable for each other and taking the challenge."

But the challenge becomes far stiffer today. The Raptors have lost their past six games against the Lakers and are just 3-14 against the Hollywood stars.

"Kobe is Kobe," Raptors point guard Rafer Alston said. "Players like him and (Allen) Iverson and (Tracy) McGrady, you try not to let them get 17, 18, 20 free-throw attempts. They're going to get enough shots to get 30, 35 points, but we don't want to send them to the line for 18, 20 free throws."


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