Setting personal rumors about their relationship aside, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard look like they’re having fun again. Winning does that to you, and the Los Angeles Lakers, claiming two consecutive victories, can start thinking about a playoff charge once again.
Because for one of the few times this season, the balance in the Lakers offense looked just right. The ball mostly in the hands of Steve Nash, finishing with 11 assists and 8 points (only 3-10 from the field)’ distributing it very well between Bryant (19 attempts), Howard (18 attempts) and Metta World Peace.
And when Kobe Bryant feels good about his teammates, he actually looks for them as well. Seeing Bryant with high assist numbers isn’t surprising, realizing how much time the ball spends in his hands every game. Bryant scored 31 points and added 6 assists, but making 12-19 from the field was the big positive point of the night. When Dwight Howard is on the floor, it’s much easier for Bryant to get the shots he likes, and he doesn’t need to force the game.
Dwight Howard’s return from injury has been quite the game changer for the Lakers. He felt good against the very soft Cleveland Cavaliers; he felt great against the similarly soft in the middle Milwaukee Bucks, scoring 31 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, averaging 26.5 points, 15 rebounds while shooting 79.3% from the field, taking only the kind of shots he likes.
When we play the way we played these last two games, I don’t see anybody beating us. The problem is we have to do it on a consistent basis and not have any lapses during the game. We’re learning, but stuff like that takes time. The biggest thing, we’ve just got to stick together. We can’t let nothing on the outside tear us apart.
Yes, the famous “the world is against us” mantra works every time. The Lakers, one of the most popular franchises in the world, have actually convinced themselves that the big problem is the criticism from the outside, from the media, and not the way things are done on and off the court. Well, whatever works for them.
Antawn Jamison is getting minutes again, amid rumors of him getting traded before the deadline, and the veteran added 10 points off the bench in 29 minutes. Metta World Peace was also in double figures, scoring 12.
A lot of it is predicated defensively on what the opposition does and what they’re willing to give up. We’ve been knocking down some shots and putting me on the same side with Howard when Steve runs that screen-and-roll. I’ve knocked down some shots, and it frees him up and makes it a lot easier to get some baskets.
Has it been Bryant’s defense that changed? A happy players puts in more of an effort, there’s no doubt about that. Mike D’Antoni spoke about Bryant’s defense in the past few days, sorta challenging his number one player while trying to be gentle as possible to ‘start playing some f&^%*&^ defense!’, and at least against the “easier” teams the Lakers will encounter (Miami coming up), Bryant has made the right adjustments, doing a great job on Brandon Jennings, limiting him to 12 points on a 4-14 shooting day.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody put that much pressure on a point guard full court for a whole game. It was probably the best defense somebody’s ever played on me since I’ve been in the league — just constantly putting pressure on me, touching me, hitting me at all times in the game. He wouldn’t let me just catch the ball easy, and I wasn’t able to get the ball a lot, so it was pretty difficult.