The game could have been ours. The Lakers outscored Denver every quarter until the final five minutes of the fourth. My internet froze when the score was tied at 103. Once I got it back up, it had quickly changed to 105-114, Denver. What the hell?
But somehow, Kobe Bryant brought them back to within four after a driving layup and drawing a foul from the three. After Bryant missed a quick shot, the Lakers still had a chance when Brown rebounded the brick, but an ugly three by Artest and I knew this game was done.
What had happened in those three minutes that my internet was down? Well, researching the play-by-play, the one-word answer would be: Carmelo. The more detailed response would be six points by Carmelo Anthony in two minutes, a three from J.R. Smith to make it a 9-0 run. Add to that a turnover by Pau Gasol, two missed threes by Bryant and Brown, a loose ball foul by Artest and finally, a 16-footer from Arron Afflalo for the cherry on top.
Me: Typical Lakers.
Han: Actually, it’s more like typical Denver. They always play like it’s the Finals when they play against us. ALWAYS.
Every year, the Lakers have had problems with Denver. Last year, the Nuggets routed the Lakers with Billups leading the way with 39 points. Need I mention that 27 of those were threes and Anthony was injured? But I’m not too worried about the Lakers losing this game in Denver. It’s a rowdy city, and the mile-high arena tends to mess with players who just aren’t used to playing basketball in the Alps. We can’t win all 82 games, and I’m sure with the deficiency and lethargy in recent performances, this can only serve as the Ritalin to our attention-deficient players on the court.
But there is something else that’s been bothering me for the past few games.
The decreasing efficiency in Kobe’s shooting has some of us scratching our heads to the point that we’re drawing blood. They've been grinding out the W’s, but those wins start to become questionable.
Tonight, Kobe started off by missing his first six shots before hitting a jumper seven minutes into the game. By the end of the night, he shot 11-for-32, missing seven of his 10 three-pointers. Is he forcing shots? Are his legs just not giving him the elevation?
Coming off of an ugly win against the Timberwolves, there was some difference of opinions between Kobe and Phil:
“He forced things tonight. He was very aggressive out there to score. I don’t know if it was in regards to getting 12 points the other night on Sunday that he wanted re-establish himself and take advantage of the young players that were out there on him, but yeah, he was very aggressive.” - Phil Jackson
“He needs to lobby for some calls, that’s what he needs to do,” Bryant said after the Wolves took 19 foul shots to the Lakers’ 16. “That was ridiculous. I think that’s illegal in some states.” - Kobe Bryant
The spousal fight. Honestly, I get very uneasy whenever Kobe is mentioned in the media, but it definitely looked like Kobe was forcing shots tonight. Maybe Phil was right. Maybe Kobe felt his manhood was being challenged when he scored only 12 points against Portland, but it’s really hard to say what is right and what is wrong.
Lamar Odom, for the first time this season, failed to score in double digits, and Pau was having issues with Nene’s game, shooting an ugly 35 percent, which is highly unusual for the man regarded as the best power forward in the game right now. What is Kobe to do?
Since Pau and Odom have been playing great, Bryant’s offensive load has decreased from 21.5 attempted shots last year to 17.6 this season. This could certainly serve as a catalyst for the emergence of the repressed Black Mamba. At times, the Kobe who wants to win at all costs decides to sacrifice his game for the sake of the team. Other times, No. 8 wants to come back and re-establish his throne.
So in this story of Jekyll and Hyde, he’s gotta figure out on a game-by-game basis whether he needs to put aside his ego or take over the game when he knows his teammates can’t bring their A-game. The game against the Wolves? Maybe Bryant overdid it. Odom was playing well, and Pau was playing at the elite level that we’re becoming accustomed to. Tonight? Maybe Bryant did need to force shots, as he was the only one being aggressive out there.
The question is, which Kobe needs to come ready to play next game?