For all the criticism Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni received about the Lakers’ defense the past two seasons, the Lakers’ current defensive efforts fare worse than last season’s production. The Lakers finished 29th out of 30 NBA teams last season in points allowed (109.2), 24th in defensive field goal percentage (46.8) and 30th in fast-break points allowed (16.7). To be fair, the Lakers have 76 regular-season games left to fix that trend.Scott maintains he will not make any lineup changes and suggested he will only do so if the Lakers fail to make substantial progress after 15 to 20 games. Instead, the team can correct the defensive issues another way, he said. Scott has chalked up the Lakers’ perimeter defense mostly as leaving corner three-pointers uncontested out of fear of leaving the top of the key open. Scott also took aim at Lakers center Jordan Hill and forward Carlos Boozer. “Our bigs got to do a better job,” Scott said. “You’re playing against teams like this that run multiple pick and rolls, if we’re trying to trap it, our bigs got to be up there. If we’re trying a hard show, our bigs got to get up there.”Showing range An emerging theme surrounded Byron Scott’s introductory press conference in July as the Lakers’ head coach.When he wasn’t waxing nostalgic about spending 11 years of his 14-year NBA career in Los Angeles and winning three league championships, Scott also preached improving the team’s defense. Yet, the Lakers’ 0-4 start primarily hinges on the team’s inability to address that issue. The Lakers stand last out of 30 NBA teams in points allowed (118 per game), defensive field-goal percentage (50.5 percent) and fast-break points allowed (21.2). The Lakers also fall in 28th place for defensive three-point field goal percentage (43.6 percent). “Defensively, we’ve just got to get tougher and we’ve got to get a little bit more grittier,” said Scott, who has said the Lakers should finish at least in the top 15 in overall defense. “Sometimes we lose focus after we score and all of a sudden we relax.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error The Lakers have gushed about Hill’s energy during his past three seasons. Rarely have the Lakers ever raved about Hill’s shooting.But in the past two games, Hill has averaged 23 points on 68.9 percent shooting and has made 11 of his 20 field goals off mid-range jumpers. “He can make it on a consistent basis, so I just encourage him to take a shot when he’s getting them,” Scott said. “He’s taking it right now with a lot of confidence.”Hill has spent the past two summers working on his mid-range jumper, mindful that the Lakers’ offense could not just hinge on Kobe Bryant. “Kobe can’t do it by himself all the time,” Hill said. “I love Byron. He’s telling me to go out there and play my game. He’s telling everybody if you’re open, shoot it. If it’s a good shot, just put it up. I have to continue to do that. I have to do it on the defensive end too.”
The “Pharaohs” have six points and the “Black Stars” only one with upstarts Uganda between them on four.Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah called up long-time campaigners like the Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan, and Asamoah Gyan, and also named five uncapped players.Egypt are away to Uganda Thursday in a repeat of a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group match in Gabon won 1-0 by the north Africans thanks to a last-gasp Abdallah Said goal.Said is in the squad, and so is 44-year-old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, as Egypt seek a win after losing the 2017 Nations Cup final to Cameroon and a 2019 qualifier in Tunisia.South Africa accept that hopes of a fourth World Cup appearance could hinge on defeating Cape Verde twice in Group D, starting in Praia Friday.Although an often windy national stadium can help the Cape Verdean “Blue Sharks”, they have lost competitive matches there against Morocco, Libya and Uganda since last year.Burkina Faso, who lead South Africa on goal difference, are away Saturday in Dakar to Senegal, whose formidable attack boasts in-form Liverpool winger Sadio Mane.Gabon will lack 2015 African Footballer of the Year Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when they host Group C pacesetters the Ivory Coast in Libreville Saturday.Asked why the Borussia Dortmund striker was missing, a Gabonese football official said: “The coach (Spaniard Jose Antonio Camacho) has chosen players who were available.”Ivory Coast have four points, Gabon and Morocco two and Mali one with the Herve Renard-coached Moroccans hosting the Malians in Rabat Friday.Group A appears to be a straight fight between Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo after they defeated Guinea and Libya in previous rounds.The first top-of-the-table meeting is set for Friday in Rades and the Congolese will be handicapped by the absence of injured Everton flier Yannick Bolasie.Share on: WhatsApp Cameroon team at AFCONJohannesburg, South Africa | AFP | Cameroon coach Hugo Broos admits their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign is doomed if they do not take at least four points off Nigeria in back-to-back clashes.The Group B rivals meet in southeastern Nigerian city Uyo this Friday and in Cameroonian capital Yaounde three days later.Nigeria top the African “group of death” with six points after two rounds, African champions Cameroon have two and Zambia and Algeria one.“If we still want to have a chance of qualifying, we must take at least four points off Nigeria,” the Belgian told reporters.“Should we fail to achieve that target, I do not think it will be possible to qualify for Russia.”Broos is hoping for an away draw and a home victory — results that would reduce the gap between the countries to one point.The remaining two qualifying rounds are scheduled for October and November with only the five group winners in Africa securing places at the global football showcase.“My players need little or no reminding of how important the matches against Cameroon are,” said Germany-born Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr.While Nigeria were fast out of the blocks late last year to defeat Zambia and Algeria, Cameroon did well to draw in Algeria only to be held at home by Zambia.Bottom-of-the-table Algeria dumped midfielder Sofiane Feghouli, a recent Galatasaray signing from West Ham United, for a must-win showdown with Zambia in Lusaka Saturday.Algeria, Cameroon and Nigeria qualified for the 2010 and 2014 World Cup tournaments, but only one of the three countries can make it to Russia.Ayew celebrates at AFCON. Ghana will need similar magic in their must-win game against CongoGhana seek crucial pointsGhana, seeking a fourth consecutive World Cup appearance, host Congo Brazzaville in Kumasi Friday needing maximum points to have any realistic hope of overtaking Group E leaders Egypt.