Who was that guy wearing #24 tonight? He looked a lot like Magic Johnson.
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Kobe Bryant had 14 assists for the game, with only three turnovers. He scored just 14 points, but did it on 7 of 10 shooting, showing magnificent shot selection. And, as if that weren’t enough, he added nine rebounds, three steals, and a block.
And in the process of having perhaps his best game of the season, Kobe led the Lakers to a convincing win against a very solid Jazz team, and ended their four-game losing streak.
Kobe’s facilitating allowed all of his teammates to get involved. In fact, Metta World Peace, Dwight Howard, and Steve Nash all had more field goal attempts than Kobe tonight. Let that sink in.
In the processing of setting up his mates all night long, Kobe moved past Allen Iverson into 37th place in career assists, with 5,630. What’s more – he needs only 66 more assists to pass these three legends: Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Larry Bird.
Not too shabby for a guy who supposedly never passes the ball!
Both Howard and Pau Gasol played strong – they are big men, and they played like big men. Dwight scored 17 points (8 of 12) and grabbed 13 boards in 37 minutes. Pau scored 15 points (7 of 8) and grabbed seven boards in 25 minutes.
In fact, the Lakers outrebounded the Jazz by a wide margin, 45 – 30, with the guards (mostly Kobe) chipping in 13 of those boards. This is obvious, but rebounding is crucial to success, and it was obviously a focus tonight after the Lakers were destroyed on the glass in their previous game at Memphis.
The Lakers also assisted on 26 of their 43 baskets (60%), and that good ball movement led to high shooting percentages – 54% from the field and 43% (9 of 21) from downtown. Teams rarely lose when they shoot that well.
So, the winning formula tonight was for the Lakers not to leak-out, but for each player to do everything he could to secure the defensive rebound. Then, they advanced the ball up court quickly, moved it around briskly in the half-court, and shot as soon as a good look presented itself.
Will this defense first, share-the-ball approach continue? There was no observable evidence leading up to the game that Kobe and the Lakers were about to unleash this type of performance. There had been no signs whatsoever that they have been gelling or improving.
We’ll all see on Sunday – versus the mighty Thunder – whether tonight’s effort can be repeated. You and I have both earned the right to be skeptical, but at the very least we can all enjoy tonight.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Tonight, the player of the game was clearly Kobe Bryant. It was arguably his best game of the season – see his numbers above – and it was just what the Lakers needed. And his energy and unselfishness rubbed off on his teammates.
Tonight’s Top Two Tweets in my Twitter Feed
“Dwight was asked if Kobe (14 dimes) should play like this every night. Smiled a big ‘Not stepping on that land mine’ smile. BK” – @KamBrothers, post-game tweet
“Waiting for Metta to say he thinks we can go 58-25.” – @Lakerholicz, post-game tweet
Sunday, January 27 vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder, 12:30 p.m. PST