Kobe Bryant

The way things are going now, the Los Angeles Lakers will get into the playoffs thanks to Kobe Bryant simply feeding into something deep within him to play the entire 48 minutes, which nearly wasn’t enough against a team in semi-tank mode, losing nine consecutive games and playing four rookies in the starting lineup.

Those are your 2013 Lakers – a team built with the aspirations of winning an NBA title, but needing a 34 year old player to play 48 minutes, finishing with 47 points on 14-27 from the field and 18-18 from the line, while the two big men next to him, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol do a good job, at least offensively, barely enough to win 113-106 in Portland against the Blazers, who featured a quite impressive Damian Lillard.

One of the things that shines a huge spotlight over how bad things are for the Lakers when you consider their head coach and his influence on the team is Kobe Bryant telling the players and the coach to trap Lillard on one of the possessions, opposed to what D’Antoni was telling them. If you had any doubts about who is running this team, it’s quite clear. And what about the D’Antoni offense? It’s not there. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of system except for whatever Bryant decides to do, while the other adjust accordingly.

After trying so many things this season, maybe this is what works best for the Lakers – to go back to 2006 and 2007 mode, when this team was all about Bryant putting inhuman numbers, which wasn’t enough to make it past the first round of the playoffs. The way things are going – winning five of their last six games, getting a one game advantage over the Utah Jazz with three remaining to play, it’ll be enough to make the playoffs. But beat the Spurs or the Thunder in a best of 7 series? Even if Bryant has anything remaining in the tank when it’s all over, it’s hard to see it happening without anyone who can contribute anything meaningful off the bench.

Dwight Howard finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, Pau Gasol had 23 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists. Having a viable big three for once isn’t such a bad way to head into the final, deciding games of the season, but you just get the sense that if the Lakers don’t get a little bit more from guys like Earl Clark, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison and Metta World Peace, it’s going to be a very shot playoff.

While Dwight Howard may have scored the most important points of the game, finishing a pass from Pau Gasol with an Alley-Oop to make it 110-104 with 53 seconds left in the game, Bryant has his signature over every good thing that happened for the Lakers, including becoming the first player ever to post 47 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks and 3 steals in an NBA game.

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