Watching Kobe Bryant play injured can be a cinematic experience. Dribbling down the court left-handed, his right arm dangling, finally using it as some sort of stabilizer appendage as he rises up to nail the outside three. And time and again, driving into the paint, knowing that his opponents are more than happy to keep wrenching at the wounded wing. It wasn’t a recipe for beating the Oklahoma Thunder on their home court, at least not without more team ingredients. Still, but you’ve got to admire the ability to adjust and recalibrate – just watching the economy of motion at the free throw line was memorable.
The Lakers managed to get close in the fourth quarter, narrowing the gap to five points before missing nine shots in a row. It didn’t logically feel like a game they should have won. It might have been a different story if Dwight Howard had been more of a force. And while it’s tempting to delve into the have and have-nots of a warrior mentality, it doesn’t change anything about the reality of this season and the numbers game. The Lakers are once again two and a half games back from the eighth spot in the west and running out of real estate.
C.A. Clark from Silver Screen and Roll recaps a gritty team performance.
Kevin Ding from the OC Register also recaps the game, as well as the injuries.
Dave McMenamin from ESPN reports that the three injured Lakers starters are expected to play tonight in New Orleans.
Brian Kamenetzky at the Land O’Lakers examines the team’s transition defense woes.
Eric Pincus for the L.A. Times has a preview for tonight’s game.
Jeff Caplan at Hang Time Blog wonders if Howard came back from surgery too soon.
Aaron McGuire at Gothic Ginobili looks at why OKC is so hard to knock off.
Eric Freeman at Ball Don’t Lie examines the free throw issue for Dwight.
Jabari Davis for Lakers Nation writes about the need for the Lakers to respond to adversity.
Tonight, the Lakers have a chance to get back to .500. It won’t be easy, a back-to-back on the road for a team nursing a litany of injuries. If there’s any silver lining, it’s that the Hornets are having their own nightmare season – 21 & 40 on the year and looking toward the draft. It’s doubtful however, that they’ll simply roll over. There’s plenty of things that the Lakers need to do right to get the win – chief among them being a team-wide effort.
There’s been much written lately about Kobe Bryant’s future and whether he’ll retire after next season. He has hinted at it and there has been plenty of responses back, including the notion that his talent and determination are too precious to let go of. What nobody but Bryant can know however, is the reality of chronic pain. Last night was only the latest example of so many years of adjustment, the constant reconfiguration of body parts and the ability to accept and compartmentalize physical suffering. Tonight, he’ll be expected to go out on the floor again and do what he does so well and nobody will have a greater expectation than Kobe himself. The pain that often mingles, in your fingertips. Beware of Mamba.