by Ryan Richman
The Lakers looked flawless in Game Six en route to a commanding 119-92 victory. The starting frontcourt of Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza combined for 57 points and 24 rebounds.
Luke Walton, Shannon Brown and Sasha Vujacic came off the bench and gave strong minutes with all three of them combining for twenty points. The reason why everyone played so well and why the Lakers played their best game these playoffs? Kobe Bryant.
You could tell that Kobe knew this game was a must-win. Bryant made it a point to get his teammates involved early, often deferring to them in the first half. This enables his teammates to get into a quick rhythm and build confidence—something extremely important on the road.
When they are clicking offensively, their defense significantly improves. And when his teammates looked as if they were dragging, Bryant picked his spots like a seasoned assassin.
With Odom, Ariza and Gasol flourishing, the game opens up for Bryant to do what he does best—be the best closer in the game and he did just that.
Bryant orchestrated his team from the opening tip all the way to the Western Conference Trophy ceremony. Whether he was coaching his teammates on specific reads or encouraging them to keep applying pressure on a big lead, Bryant offered the perfect blueprint for LeBron James to follow.
It wasn’t his 35 points that were impressing rather it was his ten assists. Hopefully the other puppet was watching and taking notes.
If LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to make the unprecedented 3-1 comeback against Orlando, James needs to be a facilitator first and foremost. The Cavs are at their best when James is utilizing his greatest strength—his passing. After he has established his teammates, that is when James can take over.
For LeBron, it will be important that his teammates are making perimeter shots because it is crucial that he penetrate the heart of Orlando’s defense—Dwight Howard. James is the only player in the world who can physically hold his own (and draw fouls and finish) against the leagues defensive player of the year.
If LeBron plays these next two games like Kobe did last night, the NBA and Vitamin Water will get what they want.