x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Title is the top target for Bryant

The Los Angeles Lakers have a greater thirst for the NBA title this season after making it to the finals a year ago only to fall short, their All-Star guard Kobe Bryant believes.

The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, left, in action with the Washington Wizards' Caron Butler, wants to win the play-offs.
The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, left, in action with the Washington Wizards' Caron Butler, wants to win the play-offs.

The Los Angeles Lakers have a greater thirst for the NBA title this season after making it to the finals a year ago only to fall short, their All-Star guard Kobe Bryant believes. The Pacific Division-leading Lakers have won 16 of 18 games this year and are unbeaten in Western Conference action with a perfect record.

Bryant, fourth in the league in scoring with a 25.1 average, said: "The chemistry is great. We were pretty close to accomplishing something special last year and it means everybody's a little hungrier to get it done this year," he said. The Lakers forward Pau Gasol, 28, said anything less than a title would be "disappointing." "There are obviously a lot of factors playing in our favour now. We're aware of our quality and our potential. We want to finish on top of the conference and go into the play-offs with some momentum."

Los Angeles, who won their last title in 2002, lost to the Boston Celtics last year, but appear stronger this season with the return of Andrew Bynum. The centre missed the play-offs last season with a knee injury and his inside presence has helped the Lakers' dominate underneath the basket. The fourth-year NBA veteran is averaging 13 points and nearly nine rebounds a game. The Lakers defeated Washington 106-104 on Friday, with their second loss this season being last Tuesday when Troy Murphy made a tip-in at the buzzer to give the Indiana Pacers a last gasp 118-117 victory.

Bryant said the loss to the Pacers proved the Lakers could not take anyone lightly. "We have to take care of business," said the 10-times All-Star. "We've had some games where we've been not as tight defensively as we have been for the majority part of the season. "And it cost us. The Pacers came back and got a tip-in at the buzzer. We have to understand that those things happen when you don't take care of your business when you have to."

The Lakers are in action in Sacramento tomorrow night. * Reuters