Maybe Dahntay Jones did make a dirty move and walked on Kobe Bryant after fouling him, but probably not. It doesn’t matter. The Los Angeles Lakers can’t win against good teams on the road, and in the next couple of weeks, are going to try and do it without Kobe Bryant, injured as the depleted Atlanta Hawks came through with the win.
The have their own injury and playoff issues, fighting for position in the Eastern Conference, as most teams are trying to avoid the Indiana Pacers, while everyone is trying to avoid the Miami Heat. The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t thinking that way. The mode of thought there is that if they make the postseason, all the talk of being a championship-caliber team is true once again. Now, without their best player (not necessarily their most important), keeping it close in the next six games, with road games against the Pacers, Suns, Warriors and Timberwolves to brave through while playing at home against the Kings and Wizards, just became a lot tougher.
But back to the matter at hand – Jones injuring Bryant, Lakers losing 92-96. Kobe thinks it was a dirty play, that you can’t get under the shooter like that. Maybe he has a point, but there’s a good chance it’s about being frustrated he missed tough, potentially game-tying shot. Luckily for the Lakers, going 17-7 since January 25, there is a silver lining in all of this.
During that span, the Lakers have actually been better with Bryant off the court. Los Angeles has outscored opponents by 41 points in 263 minutes without Bryant on the court. With him, L.A. has outscored its opposition by just 3 points in nearly 900 minutes. Yes, it’ll probably even out when they log more minutes without him, but not having any one of their big men (Howard & Gasol) is a much more disastrous scenario and Gasol might be returning soon.
This was the kind of game the Lakers probably wish Kobe Bryant took things a little bit easier. He had a horrible 11-33 night from the field, one of those games when he doesn’t see anything but the basket. Dwight Howard took only nine shots (finishing with 10 points and 16 rebounds), despite playing nearly 40 minutes. Going to Howard against a team playing without Josh Smith and Jeff Teague might have been a bit better of an idea to implement, but Mike D’Antoni doesn’t really control what’s going on the court. It’s Bryant’s show, and the puppets just string along.
For the Hawks, it ties them back up with the Bulls and Celtics for spots 5-6-7 in the Eastern Conference. They were led by Devin Harris with 17 points and 7 assists, showing the kind of effort their head coach has been complaining about all season during their darker days of bad to watch losses.
The Lakers now have to find a way not to manage with a very short bench and a lot more pressure on Steve Nash to lead the team. Their road problems against playoff teams simply don’t stop, as they’re 2-16 on the road against teams with winning records. Even if the Jazz are slumping like there’s no tomorrow, continuing this horrific trend of playing bad against strong teams won’t get them anywhere, unless this team was actually waiting for a chance to break free from the Bryant chains. I guess we’ll learn in the next couple of weeks.