LAKERS LACKING IN LOSS DEFICIENCIES ARE EXPOSED; KOBE'S 41 POINTS WASTED ORLANDO 122, LAKERS 113.
ORLANDO, Fla. - The most scrutinized left foot in Los Angeles appears to be improving, so the Lakers now can turn their attention to all that ails them in other areas.
Those would be, in no particular order, defense, rebounding and bench play - to say nothing of an identity - after the Lakers gave back an 18-point lead in the first half Friday night and lost 122-113 to the Orlando Magic in front of 17,283 at TD Waterhouse Centre.
Kobe Bryant scored a season-high 41 points on 14-for-31 shooting, showing few effects of the plantar fasciitis in his foot. But the Lakers dropped to 3-4 and need a win tonight against the Houston Rockets to avoid finishing 1-3 on their first road trip.
``I'm kind of glad it's like this,'' Lakers point guard Chucky Atkins said. ``I don't want to lose, don't get me wrong. But if we go out there and beat Orlando by 30 points on their home court, we think everything's fine and dandy.
``Every team has to go through growing pains, and we have to go through it just like everyone else.''
The Lakers jumped out to an 11-point lead before the game was 3 minutes old, with Bryant and Atkins hitting back-to-back 3-pointers on their first two possessions. They extended the margin to 18 early in the second quarter before coming to pieces.
Orlando, which played without starters Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato, scored 101 points from the second quarter to the final horn. The Lakers now have allowed 232 points between a Wednesday loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and Friday's defeat.
Steve Francis led the Magic (4-2) with 32 points, whirling his arms in all directions after pumping in one big basket after another. Grant Hill added 27 points and 12 rebounds in a performance that harkened back five years.
``We kind of let them score a little easy,'' Lakers forward Lamar Odom said. ``They want a free-flowing game. We have to make it hard for those guys. I don't think we did a good job of that, making it hard.''
The Lakers also were outrebounded 50-32, giving up 17 offensive rebounds. Dwight Howard, the No. 1 overall draft pick playing his sixth game out of high school, had a game-high 15 rebounds.
``I can tell that the scouting report against us is shoot it and just send five guys to the glass,'' Odom said.
The Lakers also were forced to play their starters major minutes in the first of back-to-back games. Orlando got 54 points from its bench - including Hedo Turkoglu's 21 and Pat Garrity's 23 - and the Lakers got 13, all from Brian Grant.
``We've got to be able to rest our starters sometime,'' Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich said, ``and we just haven't been able to do that.''
If there was any positive news for the night, it came before the game, when Lakers trainer Gary Vitti gave a 7-minute, state-of-the-foot address in the locker room and expressed an optimistic outlook.
``We're ahead of the curve now,'' Vitti said. ``We're hoping to get so far ahead of it, it'll go away.''
Bryant, who hit an impossible shot leaning into DeShawn Stevenson in the second quarter and elevated over Howard for a spectacular fourth-quarter dunk, said he would play on through the soreness.
``I don't really intend on resting it because when you rest it, that's when you starting thinking about it,'' Bryant said. ``It's like, 'Oh, my foot, is it getting better, is it getting worse? I just like going. I'll play (tonight). If we practice Sunday, I'll practice hard Sunday.''
Bryant is suffering from plantar fasciitis, a condition involving the connective tissue that attaches to his heel, supports the arch and stretches to bear weight.
He will continue to receive treatment before and after games and sleep in a splint designed to keep his foot bent at a 90-degree angle.
Ross Siler, (818) 713-3610
photo, 2 boxes
(color) Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reacts after being called for a foul on Orlando's Grant Hill in the fourth quarter Friday.
Peter Cosgrove/Associated Press
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