For the second game in a row, Kobe Bryant accepted the challenge of guarding the opposing team’s point guard, and for the second night in a row, Kobe shut him down.
You would think all the energy expended on defense would have led to a modest contribution from Kobe on the offensive end, but he had 31 points on a very efficient 12 of 19 shooting night.
Kobe shot so efficiently because the shots he took were within the flow of the offense – and the offense really did flow well tonight.
The Lakers moved the ball incredibly well during the first half, when they assisted on 21 of their 23 baskets (91%) and recorded only two turnovers. They could not keep up those stats in the second half, but overall still had great numbers, assisting on 30 of 42 baskets (71%) and committing just eight turnovers on the night.
It wasn’t just Kobe who brought his A-game tonight, though.
Dwight Howard looked as good as we’ve seen him all year, also scoring 31 points on an even more efficient 14 of 18 from the field. Howard also pulled down a team-high 16 boards, blocked a team high four shots, and had great energy all night.
Steve Nash had an off-night shooting (3 of 10), but was the prime distributor on the night, recording 11 assists against just three turnovers.
Pau Gasol missed another game due to his concussion, and Earl Clark started once again in his place. Clark made a solid contribution, scoring six points (3 of 7), grabbing nine rebounds, dishing out four assists, and blocking a shot in 24 minutes.
The one negative was that the Lakers gave up 21 offensive rebounds – although, admittedly, the Bucks missed 61 shots on the night, so there were plenty of rebounds available. Still, the Lakers will want to figure out what went wrong and get it fixed – it’s all part of becoming a better defensive team.
After having lost six games in a row, the Lakers have established a little two-game win streak in advance of hosting Miami on Thursday.
Although the Heat are the defending champions, they are a brutal rebounding team – if the Lakers bring their hops, and clean up on the defensive glass, they could get a huge win.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Although Dwight Howard’s line looks a little better than Kobe’s tonight, the Player of the Game goes to Kobe Bryant, whose contributions went far beyond 31 points (on 63% shooting), six assists, two boards and a steal.
Kobe is the leader of the Los Angeles Lakers, and the team’s biggest problem this year has been defense. Kobe seems to have accepted the challenge of being his team’s primary defensive stopper, and his teammates appear to be responding to his leadership.
If Kobe continues to focus on his defense and just take what comes to him in the flow of the offense, then there’s no reason the Lakers can’t win the title this year. And next year, too.
Tonight’s Top Two Tweets in my Twitter Feed
“You can’t expect Kobe’s numbers to be this good every night, but if he played this style of game each night that would be huge.” – @LakersNation, post-game tweet
“Huge game from Howard, too. He scored 31 points and only missed four shots. He also grabbed 16 boards and blocked four shots. Unreal.” – @DanielBuerge_LA, post-game tweet
Thursday, January 17 vs. the Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m. PST