While Kobe Bryant had the wrong kind of triple double in a game he didn’t really try to force himself on the offense, Jeremy Lin played the facilitator perfectly, providing the kind of ball movement and ball handling the Los Angeles Lakers needed in their 106-96 win over the Detroit Pistons.
A rare two-game win streak for the Lakers, something that has only happened one other time this season. These things usually happen when Bryant feels the game and doesn’t force himself, as badly as he wants to go past Michael Jordan on the scoring list (140 points to go). He was 4-of-11 from the field with 13 assists and 10 turnovers, completing the triple double no one wants with 12 points, holding on to the ball way too many times for too long, but also doing a good job on finding open players, which are usually there to spot when he’s drawing all the attention.
Lin scored 11 points to go with four rebounds and five assists, taking only five shots (2-of-5) but getting to the line seven times. He’s not touching the ball as much as he should be, not just for his own good but for the team’s. The ball movement is quicker when he gets his hands on the ball, either by decisiveness (something Lin continues to struggle with, confidence bouncing high and low all the time for obvious reasons) in his attacking the rim or simply by moving the ball more quickly to open players instead of it getting stuck in the same hands every time.
Nick Young scored 19 off the bench but the player enjoying more than anyone the sudden compassion in Bryant’s heart and his decision to share the ball like he should be doing most of the time. Face it: Bryant is more useful as a guy looking to pass first. He’s still a major offensive threat, but his inefficiency, stubbornness and selfishness in most games are a big reason why the Lakers have been doing so poorly this season. Jordan Hill led the team with 22 points.
But while the Lakers are seeing some moments of sunshine this season and have the potential to play good, smart and unselfish basketball on occasion, depending on how the man who runs the show feels the moment he wakes up in the morning, the Detroit Pistons are a mess. They’re 3-15, looking like a bunch of guys who can’t wait for the moment they’re pulled apart from each other. Stan Van Gundy was brought over to clean up the mess, and it’s going to take a lot longer than they originally thought.
Where do the Lakers go from here? There has to be some middle ground in which Bryant doesn’t touch the ball as much. It’s nice to see him pick up so many assists but when he hangs on to the ball too much the offense stagnates. He will have great nights like his better triple double from the previous win, but a little less Bryant with a bit more Jeremy Lin will do wonders for the Lakers. Lin needs the confidence, Bryant feels quite highly about himself even without touching the ball.
This season won’t end in a playoff appearance for the Lakers unless something very weird and strange happens – this team becomes a defensive juggernaut and Byron Scott actually begins coaching instead of staring endlessly into space. But this can be about more than just the Kobe Bryant show. Jeremy Lin, Nick Young (who also works on his own isolated level) and others like Jordan Hill and Carlos Boozer have a lot to bring to the table if they just get the touches that are there to be had, only they’re controlled by a greedy, aging player.