For the past two games, Kobe Bryant has been playing at an otherworldly level.
Furthermore, he was huge at the end of each game and the sole reason why the Los Angeles Lakers didn't lose to the two aforementioned teams.
Yes, Dwight Howard contributed two monster double-double performances, but he hardly left an imprint on either game. It was Bryant who pulled the team through in the clutch.
However, he has also recorded six and nine turnovers in each of the two games, with a usage rate of over 37 percent (per Basketball Reference). It's certainly not surprising that Bryant has turned the ball over so many times, especially since the team is so reliant on him to do something with the ball in most possessions.
Sadly enough, the Hornets and Raptors are nowhere near any of the elite teams in the league. Neither of them are even in the playoff race in their respective conferences, yet the Lakers still needed a superhuman performance from the Black Mamba.
The comeback win over the Hornets saw the Lakers outscore them 33-9 in the fourth quarter, but that illustrates how much the whole team, including Bryant, has been slacking in the first three quarters of the game.
There are only 19 games left, yet the Lakers are still struggling with the same problems that they've experienced since the beginning of the season. They allowed the Hornets to score 93 points through three quarters, and the Raptors to score 89.
Even though the Lakers are trying to make one final push for the seventh or eighth seed in the playoffs, there still seems to be no sense of urgency until the game is almost over.
With the Utah Jazz slumping in a three-game losing streak, the Lakers are just one game behind in the loss column from eighth place in the Western Conference.
But, will making the playoffs as an eighth seed really mean anything? As great as Bryant is, he won't be able to lift the Lakers over the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs in the first round by himself.
It will take a total team effort to beat those teams, and that's something that the Lakers have been struggling to find throughout the entire season.
One could make a case that Bryant's increased usage rate is the reason why his teammates aren't motivated enough to play on either side of the floor. But, that's actually the reason why Bryant has demanded the ball so frequently in the fourth quarter—because his teammates haven't been playing great throughout the rest of the game.
Bryant may be one of the best scorers in NBA history, but he cannot keep up these monstrous performances, especially when the playoffs approach.
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