It hasn’t been exactly the best of seasons for Kobe Bryant when it comes to proving his “clutchness”, but things are changing. He’s hitting his best form of the season at the perfect time, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a .500 record for the first time since the final game of the previous calendar year.
Yes, it’s been quite a bumpy ride for the Lakers and Bryant himself so far this season, a lot rougher than expected. But with five wins in the last six games, and the Houston Rockets not running away from them in the pace some expected them to, the postseason is a reachable goal despite everything, if Bryant continues to play like that.
It’s not just the mega dunks he seems to be pulling off in recent games; Bryant is hitting his outside shots once again after a funk of nearly a month, and is averaging 34.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists over his last five games, with the Lakers winning four of five, and Bryant finding his shooting again, making 50% of this three pointers and 56.9% of his field goal attempts.
I wanted to attack and just go right at them. Take the game to them. Be aggressive. Be physical. And it worked out. It was more of a message to my team here, to kind of have that will, that hunger, to push through it by any means necessary. It’s just a challenge. I wouldn’t even really categorize it as fun. The fun comes in the challenge, and we’re up for it.
Bryant finished with 34 points and 6 rebounds, and while the most memorable moment of the game was when he took Josh Smith to the basket and dunked over one of the better shot blockers in the league, his go ahead layup with 9 seconds to go, giving the Lakers a 99-98 lead and win was what he’ll cherish the most probably. After going 0-2 this season on potential go-ahead shots this season in the final minute of a game, he finally made one. Just to remind you, Bryant was 7-of-14 with a chance to take the lead in the final minute of regulation or overtime last season.
The last time the Lakers were at .500, they lost six games in a row following the win that got them there. It seems Bryant is on a mission to not allow that to happen regardless of what’s happening around him. Dwight Howard is either injured or not putting in the kind of effort they want him to, but he’s not sulking anymore, and not arguing with Steve Nash. Howard finished with 11 points and 15 rebounds, although he had trouble, as the Lakers did, shutting down the successful combination between Al Horford and Josh Smith, who combined for 43 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Steve Nash had a double double as well (15 points and 10 assists) and it seems the forgotten name of Pau Gasol isn’t something worth mentioning these days on the yellow side of the Staples center. The Lakers are winning the games they should be winning, and if they manage to avoid messing up in these games until the end of the season, which seems mostly up to Bryant’s ability to play like a superstar consistently, maybe we’ll see more than 82 games this season from the Lakers.