If it wasn’t for Jeremy Lin, Kobe Bryant wouldn’t have an opportunity to grab some headlines and take over in the end of the fourth quarter as the Los Angeles Lakers lost another preseason game, this time 114-108 in overtime to the Phoenix Suns.
Bryant had an excellent finish to regulation with eight straight points in the final two minutes of the game as he went into hero-ball mode, ignoring open players and simply backing up or posting up on Suns defenders 20-feet away from the basket. This time it worked, but counting on that strategy to help out the Lakers in every game during the regular season is just asking for trouble.
Jeremy Lin himself came back from his ankle injury and the Lakers looked very good during his 24 minutes on the floor. He finished with 15 points on 8-of-10 from the line, adding four rebounds and five assists. He helped the Lakers come back to within two points before Bryant took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points and adding two assists in the span of eight minutes, showing not for the first time that keeping on the floor in the fourth and putting the ball in his hands usually works out well for his team.
Lin played well during fourth quarters he had something to do in with the Houston Rockets, although Kevin McHale didn’t always let the game move through him. The same thing might happen with the Los Angeles Lakers, who are once again going to have to rely on Kobe Bryant’s tendencies on offense. One night he might feel like passing the ball along and look for open players, and other nights he’ll feel he wants all the headlines to himself..
Bryant finished the game with 27 points on 10-of-20 from the field, but he also turned the ball over five times. Ronnie Price started as the point guard, finishing with 10 assists, but he’s not the kind of player to make any kind of impact on his team’s offense, certainly not on a regular basis. Wesley Johnson scored 15 points to go with 8 rebounds, and anything more than nothing from him on the offensive side is almost like a big bonus.
Steve Nash didn’t play with his mysterious back injuries plaguing him again. Nick Young hasn’t played a single second of preseason basketball. Xavier Henry is still out. The Lakers could be a lot better than they are, but for now the two most important players on this team are Jeremy Lin and Kobe Bryant, especially with Bryant showing he’s in much better shape than he was when he made his short comeback last season.
The Lakers took 14 3-pointers, something Byron Scott probably didn’t like. But in order to open up some space for guys like Carlos Boozer and Julius Randle to operate in, the Lakers have to be able to become a threat from long range as well. Kobe Bryant might feel entitled and maybe obligated to take all the shots himself and control the ball way more than he should, but for the Lakers to be a bit more successful than currently predicted for them, Lin has to be an integral part of this offense.