It sure didn’t take long for Kobe to get back into the swing of things. A 32-7-6 line and a game winning three-pointer in his return after missing five games was impressively seamless – however, the fact that Bryant had to bail the Lakers out for the fifth time this season was much less impressive.
The Lakers came out playing great basketball, outscoring the Grizzlies 27-16 after the first quarter, forcing six turnovers (five steals) and only committing two themselves. Things turned from there, with the Grizzlies shortening that 11-point lead to just five by the half, and taking a five point lead of their own going into the fourth quarter. It definitely wasn’t pretty, but the Lakers will definitely take the win, keeping pace with Cleveland for the league’s best record (the Lakers are still a half-game back in overall standings going into tonight’s game with Cleveland standing pat).
For those of you who missed the game, Basket Blog has a running diary of the game against Memphis, highlighting all of the big plays and adding some analysis by quarter.
Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register had a good column on how Kobe looked in his return to game action.
“Kobe Bryant produced another ending to remember.
“Just don’t forget how Bryant looked at the beginning.
“That was magical in a more unique way. The word “pure” describes Bryant’s stroke on that winning shot Tuesday night, but it better speaks to the look in his eyes as he took the basketball court for the first time after 18 days away.
“On first glance the eyes were might’ve looked dead to the casual observer because they were so steady. Bryant walked without emotion from the bench to the scorer’s table to get rosin for his hands. Teammate Josh Powell whispered that last motivation in Bryant’s right ear right before tip-off – which only happens every single game – yet Bryant listened as intently as if it were the final play call.
“And soon enough, Bryant was talking with the same focus. He set a season-high in communication in team defense, triggering extraordinary results…”
Also, in SLAMonline’s recap of all games last night, they touched on the Lakers-Grizzlies game and, of course, Kobe’s return:
While this was going on, in La-la-land, Kobe was doing what he does coming back from an ankle injury to drop 32 of his team’s 99 points, shooting 13-19 from the floor, adding seven rebounds and six assists and hitting the game-tying three-pointer then following that up with the game-winning dagger three to give the Lakers the 99-98 victory. It’s funny how tough of a time the Lakers have with Memphis. Had OJ Mayo made a pair of free throws, the Lakers would have trailed by two possessions, but you know, give Kobe room to win and more often than not, he’s going to.
How many game winners is this? Five? I think something like that. So crazy. It’s even crazier when, I swoon over the 32/7/6 line from Kobe and then go over and check LeBron’s numbers for the season. They are different players with different skill sets and different roles on their teams and I’m still picking Kobe to win the game for me, but I cannot wrap my head around just how good LeBron is on a nightly basis.
Mark Medina of the Lakers Blog at the Los Angeles Times has a great read on Kobe’s late game heroics versus the team’s collective late game collapses and Basket Blog has video of post game interviews with Phil Jackson and Pau Gasol. Andy Kamenetzky at Land O’ Lakers has a good recap of the game that chronicles the Lakers’ sloppy play after the first quarter.
“After a first frame holding the Grizzlies to a sweet 16, L.A. allowed their hosts to double it over the second quarter, then score 33 during the third. That strong defense consistently witnessed during Bryant’s ankle-sprained absence? Non-existent. Ditto the smart play. The Lakers turned the ball over nine times in the third quarter alone and 17 times in all. Well above the team’s average, and even more eye-popping, this mess’ foundation was a first quarter with just two gaffes.
“Everything went haywire, and it wasn’t a matter of Memphis forcing Laker mistakes. They just played badly.
“You can’t defend turnovers,” said PJ after the game. “They’re eventually going to catch up with you. We created our own mismatch in that (third) quarter.”
“That lack of concentration also surfaced at the stripe. After missing just twice in nineteen tries over 36 minutes, veterans became unglued. Pau, 82 percent on the season, missed three attempts during the final frame and Derek Fisher, an 85 percent guy, missed a pair. Inexcusable, and for El Spaniard, additional proof playing in Memphis messes with him. No shot was too big a “bunny” for Gasol this evening.”
3 Shades of Blue has a recap of last night’s game from the Memphis perspective, where Chip Crain declares Kobe as the NBA’s best player.
“Tuesday night began like so many Grizzlies games have begun recently with the team down double digits early. Just like the Miami and New Jersey games the Grizzlies staged a furious comeback to retake the lead late in the game. However this time the Grizzlies couldn’t finish the game nor even make it to overtime. This time the people of Memphis were treated to a show by Kobe Bryant who showed why he is the best player in the game today when the game is on the line.
“Sorry LeBron fans but it is true. Give me LeBron for 3 1/2 quarters but when the game is on the line I want Kobe taking the big shots. Kobe scored the Lakers final nine points to bring the defending World Champions back from certain defeat topped off with a three point shot with the clock running out that was contested and two feet at least behind the three point line.”
Lastly, I leave you with the video of Kobe’s game winner. Phil drew up a gorgeous play, the double-screen, giving Kobe room to hide and shoot behind Gasol using Lamar and Fisher as decoys. The ball reversal created misdirection, making the Grizzlies players make decisions – exactly what you want to do if you have one shot.