Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Must Swallow Pride Regarding 4th-Quarter Benching

Andre KhatchaturianCorrespondent IIIMarch 26, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 18:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after missing a three point attempt to tie the game with five seconds left against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on March 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Jazz won 103-99.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers found themselves playing catch-up all night long against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night.

In the fourth quarter, during the most crucial part of the game, when the Lakers were trying to make a run to come from behind and win, Kobe Bryant was nowhere to be found on the court.

It wasn't until there were two minutes left in the ballgame that Mike Brown put Kobe back on the floor.

Fans were getting anxious, chanting, "We want Kobe!" and there was an irritated look on Kobe's face. Anyone who has watched Kobe play over the years knows that he wasn't the happiest camper, having to sit on the bench.

The Lakers ended up dropping the game, 102-96, in a game where Kobe only took 15 shots, his lowest shot total since February 22.

Would Kobe's presence have changed the outcome of the game?

Who knows? 

More importantly, who cares?

Whether there was a reason behind Kobe's benching or if it was just a faux pas by the head coach, Kobe needs to move past it and focus on the next game against Golden State and the following contest against Oklahoma City.

This loss against Memphis is just one game on a 66-game schedule. 

The good news is Kobe has matured, and he probably won't make it a big deal. Ten years ago, he might have blown this out of proportion with a few choice words during his press conference. However, now he knows that once team chemistry is shattered, it's extremely difficult to bring it back.

It's true that Kobe should've been in the game at that point in time. It's not like this was one of his occasional poor shooting nights like the one he had last Sunday against Utah. Kobe had 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting, so there seems to be no valid reason why Kobe wasn't out there earlier in the fourth.

That said, it would be best if Kobe forgets about tonight and sleeps on it. Thursday's challenge against Oklahoma City is one that needs to be taken seriously. The best way Kobe can respond is to put on a performance for the ages against the best team in the West, which now employs his best friend and former teammate, Derek Fisher. 

The last thing the Lakers need is unnecessary drama heading into one of the most important games of the season. 

After all, there is no telling that the Lakers were going to be able to come back from that deficit with Kobe in the lineup.

The defense was lackadaisical all night, and Kobe didn't do much to help it. He was minus-six on the night, as the Grizzlies seemingly would score with great ease after every Lakers bucket. 

That's a team defense problem. The Lakers' loss had nothing to do with Kobe riding the bench in the fourth quarter.

It would be foolish if Kobe ever brings this up, considering the fact that the Grizzlies shot north of 51 percent against the Lakers. They also put up 102 points, well above their road average of 91 points. 

The Lakers need to clean up their act on defense, which has struggled considerably in March.

Tonight marked the eighth time this month the Lakers allowed over 100 points. From December through February combined, opponents scored over 100 just seven times.

Although benching Kobe was a head-scratching decision, there are other facets of the game the Lakers need to polish up if they're going to go deep into the playoffs this year.

So relax, Kobe.

We know you're frustrated. Channel that frustration and explode on the Thunder on Thursday night.