The sample size of the games without Kobe Bryant this season is too small up until now (only three), but the early conclusion is that the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t doomed without their alleged best player, especially when his absence makes life a little bit easier for everyone on the floor, and especially Dwight Howard, who like it or not is made to be a star on a team, and not just a bystander waiting for a chance.
Howard led the Lakers to one of their biggest wins of the season, scoring 26 points and grabbing 17 rebounds en route to a 91-86 win over the San Antonio Spurs, bringing the Lakers a step closer to securing that playoff spot, although it does mean they probably still have to beat the Houston Rockets, because of their tiebreaker situation with the Utah Jazz. The Lakers are now 44-37, with the Jazz 42-38. If Utah win out and the Lakers drop their final game, Utah are in the postseason, which makes the final home game against Houston just as big.
It wasn’t a perfect game for the Lakers, who didn’t have a real point guard on the floor. Steve Blake was it, more or less, and had his best game of the season with 23 points, enjoying the fact that Tony Parker isn’t exactly 100% and got only three minutes in the final quarter. But the absence of Bryant makes for an interesting scene, as players get to take big shots in the fourth quarter without having to worry about being frozen out.
Antawn Jamison (15 points, 6 rebounds) hit three 3-pointers from Antawn Jamison. Jodie Meeks hit two of them. All that happened in the span of 8 possessions. Say of Bryant what you will, but that kind of chance for other players doesn’t happen when he’s on the floor in the crucial minutes.
One awful piece of offense came from Pau Gasol. Instead of being the passer, like he’s been in recent games, he tried to do too much against a very good Spurs defense from Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, compiling an awful 3-17 from the field, although his defense and rebounding (17) made up for it, partially. The win and Dwight Howard, who fronted Duncan very well on most occasions, did the rest.
This might be the future of the Lakers, and Howard is fine with that, although better players might be hanging around him eventually. Howard wants to be the star of the team, and maybe even should. Some thought the best thing for the Lakers last season was to base their offense around Andrew Bynum, not Kobe Bryant. Bynum has a weak character and work ethic. Howard, despite being a fun-loving guy, is a proven winner as the main offensive focus on a team. Maybe this was the answer all along, and the Lakers needed Kobe Bryant to end his season to figure it out.