Lakers guard Kobe Bryant watches his go-ahead three-point shot against… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
Some things to take away from the Lakers' 88-85 victory Saturday over the New Orleans Hornets.
1. The Lakers shouldn't feel good about this comeback. So the 18,997 fans at Staples Center acted as if the Lakers were about to win the NBA title. The confetti dropped. And announcer Lawrence Tanter sounded excited announcing the Lakers would receive free tacos. But spare the good feelings. Kobe Bryant's game-winning three-point shot, Steve Blake's stop on Jarrett Jack from driving the lane and Matt Barnes two free throws to ice the game may have invigorated Laker fans. But it hardly overshadows sad turn of events that the Lakers need to puil off a 26-18 fourth-quarter run just to avoid an upset against the Western Concerence's worst team.
2. Bryant needs to rest. Lakers Coach Mike Brown and the Black Mamba likely won't admit it. But it's fair to presume Bryant's 11 points on three-of-21 shooting is a byproduct of playing 38.9 minutes per game, which ranks third highest in the NBA. Nearly all of his shots were in line with the basket but fell short. It looked like Bryant played at a deliberate pace. And there was nothing he could do to snap out of it until very late in the game.
This is how bad it looked. Barnes threw a bullet pass at the top of the key to an open Bryant. Even though he had a wide-open shot, Bryant hesitated. Later in the third quarter, fans actually gasped when Bryant took an open jumper the same way they do when Metta World Peace heaves off-balance three-pointers. The crowd then groaned when he missed an open jumper at the top of the lane late in the third. The crowd then got on its feet to cheer for an open three-pointer. They even chanted his name as he launched another three to end the third. Same result. And then, of course, there were the cheers when he finally scored on an elbow jumper, a drive to the lane and his gamer winner.
Bryant is willing to play through his heavy minutes and won't use it as an excuse. Brown has less than desirable options. And the Lakers are still fighting for a high playoff seeding. But the Lakers can't absorb Bryant shooting this poorly from the field against good teams, let alone in the playoffs. Brown avoided calls to rest Bryant during plenty of double-digit wins and blowouts insisting the Lakers needed to foster more chemistry. But the Lakers are starting to see such a short-minded approach catching up to them. It'll be a much better approach in the remaining month to better manage Bryant's minutes.
3. Andrew Bynum had an inconsistent game. Just before the buzzer, Bynum heaved a half-court shot. Relax, Brown didn't bench him because it came at the end of halftime. But here's something more egregious: it represented half of his field-goal attempts. Ok, so maybe Bryant could've looked for Bynum instead of trying to find his rhythm. But pin this on Bynum, too. He hardly looked aggressive establishing post position until the second half. There he converted on a left hook, finished an and-one play, threw down a Barnes lob and blocked a shot by Greivis Vasquez late in the game en route to a 19-point performance on seven-of-10 shooting.
4. The Lakers bench remains unreliable. Whether it's Josh McRoberts getting stuffed at the rim, Blake throwing a ball between McRoberts' legs or Matt Barnes off-kilter shooting, there's nothing to like from this bench. OK, maybe there's one exception. After a Laker fan yelled out to Blake to "let's go," he nailed three consecutive three-pointers in the third quarter. No word iif Brown's adding that fan to his coaching staff. That's why it's mind blogging Brown stayed with that rotation, particularly late in the fourth quarter, instead of increasing Ramon Sessions' 32 minutes.
5. The Lakers cough up another strong start. The Lakers' 20-8 start in the game featured everything you'd want them to do. They moved the ball, found high-percentage shots and hustled on defense. So, of course, the Lakers stopped doing that. Some of the reasons included settling for outside jumpers, failing to get back on transition defense and then allowing that frustration to stew over. Yeah, fans have heard this plenty of times before, so no need to dissect it.