For the second game in a row, Kobe Bryant was Magic.
Kobe led his Lakers to a gargantuan win over the league-leading Thunder. He had a team-high but still modest 21 points, and did it on fabulous 8 of 12 shooting. For the second game in a row, he dished out 14 assists against only three turnovers. And, for the second game in a row, he finished with nine rebounds – just one board short of a triple-double.
The team had great energy all night long, and it was because Kobe looked to get them all involved, and looked to shoot only when the shot was there.
That energy was especially evident on the defensive end, as the Lakers held Kevin Durant to 38% shooting (10 of 26) and Russell Westbrook to 27% shooting (6 of 22). To my eye, most of that credit should go to Earl Clark, Metta World Peace, and Kobe Bryant.
That Kobe-generated energy was also apparent on the offensive end. The Lakers assisted on 29 of their 41 buckets (71%), which led to easy looks and high shooting percentages. The Lakers shot 55% from the field and 41% from three (7 of 17).
As is typical for a high-assist game, the Lakers scoring was very balanced, and they had six players in double figures. In addition to Kobe, Steve Nash had 17 (6 of 11), Pau Gasol had 16 (7 of 10), Metta World Peace had 15 (6 of 14), Antawn Jamison had 12 (4 of 6), and Earl Clark had 11 (5 of 9).
Dwight Howard had only eight points (3 of 7, and an atrocious 2 of 10 from the line), but he did grab 10 rebounds in 29 minutes of floor time.
It should also be mentioned that while Jodie Meeks had only five points tonight (on 2 of 3 shooting) – they were five very important points. With the game tied 75-75 after three quarters, Coach D’Antoni – to my dismay – decided to rest both Bryant and Nash to start the fourth. Meeks came through big time in those few minutes that could have otherwise been a big momentum boost for the Thunder.
Finally, the Lakers had four of their players move up a notch in NBA career statistics:
- Perhaps most notably, Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan to rank 36th in career assists – he finished the game with 5,644 for his career.
- Metta Word Peace passed Eddie Jones to rank 23rd in career steals – he finished the game with 1,621 for his career.
- Antawn Jamison passed Walter Davis to rank 42nd in career points – he finished the game with 19,524 for his career.
- Dwight Howard passed Jason Kidd (at least temporarily) to rank 53rd in career rebounds – he finished the game with 8,564 for his career.
It’s important for Lakers fans not to get ahead of themselves, but the schedule is about to soften up a little bit. If the Lakers can take advantage of it, they might just find themselves within striking range of a play-off spot by the All-Star break.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Today, Kobe Bryant repeated his Magical performance from Friday, and in the process repeated as Player of the Game. Recording 21 points (8 of 12), 14 assists (only 3 TOs), 9 rebounds, a plus-minus of +11, and a great effort on defense, all against the NBA’s best team, will get you player of the game every time.
As noted above – and elsewhere – Kobe’s value today wasn’t just in his numbers cited above. He is the leader of this team, and when he plays with energy and shares the ball, his teammates follow his lead.
Tonight’s Top Two Tweets in my Twitter Feed
“In a lot of ways, Kobe is playing as he did while Nash was out. Only now that Nash is back, there’s more space because Nash is such a good shooter.” – @RamonaShelburne, post-game tweet
“The rest of the teams in the NBA after seeing this game: ‘uh oh.’” – @SteveNashNation, post-game tweet
Tuesday, January 29 vs. the New Orleans Hornets, 7:30 p.m. PST