With 2.2 seconds left in the game and the Lakers down one, I was baffled during the timeout. I had NO idea who Phil Jackson was going to diagram a play for – it was definitely Kobe time, but Kobe was in street clothes. And after Ron Artest inbounded the ball, Derek Fisher – who has hit his fair share of HUGE shots for the Lakers – attempted an off balance 21-footer that had no chance at the hoop. Conventional logic would tell us that, yes, we need Kobe Bryant back right now. However, the Lakers resilience in that fourth quarter still has me in the “Kobe should keep resting until he’s fully recovered” camp. Sure, the Lakers would have been in a better position if it were Kobe, not Shannon Brown, taking those one-on-one jumpers. Sure, the Lakers would have been in a better position late in the fourth when both teams ratcheted up the defense making it tough for either team to add to their respective point totals. And sure, the Lakers would have been in a better position if it were Kobe taking that final shot – or so it seems.
In the Lakers previous two games against the Celtics, both games were won by a one-point margin, and Kobe played in those games. It’s the Celtics, no matter who’s on the floor, we’re going to have to expect a hard, tough fought battle. Even for all of the game winners that Kobe has hit, 2.2 seconds against Boston is a lot more difficult a task than against the likes of Miami, Milwaukee and Sacramento. There is no guarantee that Kobe hits that shot last night, but what we know for sure is that the Kobe-less Lakers were just as competitive – maybe not better – against the Celtics as they have been with Kobe on the floor.
The loss was tough, no doubt about that. But I can only take this loss as a positive (sans Shannon Brown). Lamar Odom played with more heart than I’ve seen from him in a while. Andrew Bynum had some really good stretches. Sasha, although not there yet, seems to be getting his ’08 confidence back as he had two straight buckets (one coming off an offensive rebound and put back while the other he drove hard to the rim and finished strong) in the third quarter. Pau struggled physically (and still had 22 with three blocks), but I know that’s just not something the Lakers are going to have to worry about on a nightly basis. But most importantly, they defended well. It’s been well chronicled that the Celtics have had untimely offensive lapses this season, and the Lakers were able to take advantage of that. A lot of the media attention has focused on just the mere fact that the Lakers are winning without Bryant, but in the five games in his absence, they’ve only given up 86.6 points per contest. That’s a whole seven points better than what the Celtics, the team giving up the fewest points per in the league. Yes, it’s a loss, but even without Kobe, the Lakers are still good enough to put themselves in positions to win games.
Fisher noted it was “a difficult shot” and acknowledged his strategy to try to draw contact may not have been the best way given “there’s not going to be many calls made” late in the game. But even with a poor shooting night, Fisher accepted and embraced the responsibility.
“If you’re confident in yourself and you know your teammates are confident in you, if you’re open you have to be willing to take the shot and live with the consequences,” said Fisher, who went only one of nine from the field for three points. “That wasn’t the type of shot I would’ve liked to have gotten in that situation. But if there’s anybody else on the team that is willing to and can handle whatever comes with it, if you don’t make it, it’s me. Ill take whatever comes with it, I just wish we could’ve won the game.”
The Basket Blog over at Lakers.com gives a position-by-position breakdown of last night’s game against the Celtics that shows how well Ron Artest has done against Pau Pierce in the two games against the Celtics.
Celtics Hub puts the win over the Lakers in perspective for Celtics fans and gives a little game analysis from the view of those on the opposite coast.
There are a number of reasons not to get too excited about this win if you are a Celtics fan. The C’s beat LA, but they didn’t have Kobe. They still had the 2nd half collapse and couldn’t score when it mattered in the 4th quarter. The C’s undoubtedly just got “lucky” tonight. That’s one assuredly fair assessment of this contest.
Of course, for every point, there is a counterpoint. Yes, the Celtics beat the Lakers without number 24, but this was the same Kobe-less team that crushed Utah, easily the hottest team in the league last week on the road. Yes, the Celtics collapsed in the early part of the 4th quarter but they did not fold altogether. Instead, they held the Lakers to just 2 points in the final 7:13, enabling them to escape Staples Center with a one point win.
For more game analysis, go check out Darius’ post from last night (or early this morning) if you haven’t done so yet.
I’ll leave you guys with one last link found over at the Orange County Register. Jeff Miller argues that Lebron, not Kobe, is the NBA’s best basketball player. Have fun with this one.
Is there anyone other than Kobe Bryant we’d rather have with the ball at the end of a game waiting to be won? No.
Is there anyone better suited than title-tested Bryant to lead these Lakers on another postseason run? No.
Is there anyone more polished than Bryant at the art of rescuing unexpected victory from looming defeat? No.
But is there anyone in the NBA better than LeBron James right now? No. No. And – say this one with extra-special emphasis — no!
Breathe deep, Kobe Nation. We know you get a little defensive when it comes to questions about Bryant’s status as a living bronze statue.