Disparity seems to be bringing out the best of the Los Angeles Lakers, or at least Kobe Bryant, pulling the team from the mouths of a huge defeat, pulling off every shot he has in his bag of tricks to come out as the winner after an improbable comeback, with hope of a playoff spot greater than ever.
The Houston Rockets lost to the Dallas Mavericks only after the Lakers capped off their 108-102 win over the New Orleans Hornets, the Lakers’ sixth in their last eight games, with Bryant playing better than he has all season for the last few weeks. This time? He scored 42 points, adding 7 rebounds and 12 assists, but the important of them coming in the final 6:22 of the game, as the Lakers went on a 20-0 run, Bryant scoring 13 points in that time-span.
I believed we were going to win it the whole time. The most important thing for me was to bring my teammates along with me. I had to force the game upon them a little bit and change the momentum and get everybody believing we could do this together.
Bryant wasn’t the only one to be labeled as a hero in this game, although he was certainly the first name on everyone’s lips, as usual in recent games. He’s averaging 35.1 points in the last 7 games for the Lakers, and hopefully for them, isn’t planning on slowing down with 20 games left in the bank, and still a bit of ground to cover in their chase after the Houston Rockets.
Dwight Howard was right up there with Kobe in terms of intensity and more importantly, defense. The best thing about a healthy and motivated Howard is his ability to lock down a defense, like he did plenty of times with the Orlando Magic. The Lakers have been missing that ability from him, but found the Howard they want and need with a 20 points, 15 rebound performance, going along with 4 blocks and 3 steals.
This game brought us closer together as a team. This is what it takes when you’re playing for the playoffs and then when you’re in the playoffs, fighting through games like this and it just shows our character. We had a tough one last night, we started out on a bad note tonight, but instead of giving up, we kept fighting until the end.
So Bryant is playing injured (right elbow), and Dwight Howard isn’t completely healthy as well. His back needed more rest than just last summer, and his shoulder isn’t 100% as well. But it seems that finding common ground in the dressing room and on the floor is pushing the Lakers towards their goal, which seemed impossible, or at least improbable not too long ago.
On paper, this was a game they were supposed to win, even if it was on the road, where the Lakers are 11-20 this season. If things keep going like this – the Lakers and the Rockets winning the games they need to and losing to those they should, the Lakers won’t make it into the final 8. Beating the New Orleans Hornets is better than nice, but it’s not nearly enough on both ends of the floor, especially with the Lakers playing badly for most of the game, when a more serious challenge comes knocking.