Kobe Bryant is pretty much unstoppable right now, and so were the Lakers over the last 10 days, until they met the Los Angeles Clippers. Bryant may be scoring over 40 points a game this past week, but the Clippers, with an one fire Chris Paul (33 points) are simply the best team in LA right now, winning 102-94.
Bryant shooting 14-28 from the field is nothing new these past few days. He’s the oldest player in NBA history to score over 40 on four consecutive nights. But we need to pay attention as to who got burned by Bryant. Phoenix, Cleveland and Utah, not the elite of the NBA, especially defensively.
It’s like Bryant decided to show the world in 2012 he’s the greatest scorer out there, and damn the torpedoes. As long as the Lakers win, it’s great, but when better teams come along? Bryant trying to win by himself just doesn’t cut it each and every night. Bryant is averaging 28.1 field goal attempts in January, with the Lakers 6-3 in this month.
Paul has suddenly become found of shooting the ball, attempting 21 and 22 in the wins over the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 30 points a game in the two games. But it’s more than just stats. Paul, like he quickly did with the Hornets after getting drafted out of Wake Forest, took over, in pretty much every aspect.
The Clippers are an electrifying team. With Paul at point guard, with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan flying around, but there’s much more to be excited about. The defense and overall will to execute it that wasn’t there during the early days is looking more and more permanent fixture of their games. Or maybe it’s just the enthusiasm of playing at home against big teams like the Heat and Lakers. Whatever it is, it’s working for now.
Paul finished with 33 points and six assists, while Blake Griffin clocked 45 minutes, scoring 22 points, grabbing 14 rebounds. The bench, again, was hardly a part of the win, although Randy Foye scored 10 points and Reggie Evans did a good job as DeAndre Jordan played less than 30 minutes. The Clippers are pretty solid in their backup for the point guards, with Ryan Gomes also a good option when Caron Butler (13 points) is off. Still, the lack of solid backup, especially with offensive abilities up front has got to be worrying.
As for the Lakers, they’re going where Bryant takes them. Mike Brown is a defensive minded head coach, and I don’t think he has it in him to curb Bryant’s enthusiasm to break scoring records, no matter how good or not it is for the team. Andrew Bynum scored 12 points with 16 rebounds, Pau Gasol scored 14 points with 10 rebounds. Kobe Bryant relied on none of them to help him try and win a sixth straight game.