It wasn’t Kobe Bryant dissing his teammates in practice that made the Los Angeles Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs 112-110. It was him stopping to shoot the ball or even touching it, while Nick Young had a huge game including the game winning shot while Jeremy Lin looked like a happy basketball player again.
Young hit a crazy 3-pointer with 7.4 seconds left in overtime to give the Lakers a two point lead. The Spurs tried to get the ball to Cory Joseph off the inbound pass, but Jeremy Lin was staying with him. Kobe Bryant lost Manu Ginobili who was making the move towards the outside, but his shot bounced off the rim, and time ran out as both teams were chasing the rebounds. In a conference in which every win counts, the Spurs weren’t counting on losing to the 7-16 Lakers at home.
For only the 5th time this season, Bryant was leading the scoring for the Lakers. He shot a terrible 7-of-22 from the field, and at some point actually realized the team would be better off without him shooting the ball. He finished the game with nine assists, six of them coming when he turned into a ball handler looking to pass first or serve as decoy, beginning in the middle of the fourth quarter and moving into overtime.
Jeremy Lin scored 14 points, his best game off the bench this season. He struggled in the fourth quarter and only came into overtime with 1:04 left in the game, but he had the assist to Young, that led the Lakers with 29 points, including 6-of-9 from beyond the arc and hitting his first five attempts from 3-point range. The Lakers were at their best during Lin’s 30 minutes, winning the game by 10 points when he was on the floor, adding 8 assists to his scoring tally.
The interesting thing about Young’s night and especially his combination with Bryant is that Young scored 16 of his points on possessions in which Bryant didn’t even touch the ball. The Lakers shot 50% from the field when Bryant wasn’t involved, compared to 42.6% when he was. That’s easily explained because despite his realization near the end, Bryant did take a lot of bad shots throughout the game. He actually started out hot with 11 points in the first half, but cooled down later on.
The problem with this win? Mainstream media will attribute it to Bryant shouting and humiliating players in practice. Jeremy Lin saying after the game that they played pretty tough for a team full of toilet paper (referencing to Bryant’s remarks) will also probably cause some sort of unworthy appraisal to the player who failed on his attempt to get by Michael Jordan’s scoring a bit too much. He’ll make it in the next game, even though this season continues to be more of a stain on his legacy as a player, leader and personality.
The things the Lakers need to take from this win is there good moments on defense (more than usual at least), Kobe Bryant not shooting the ball in crunch time and giving Jeremy Lin more than 20-25 minutes a game as Ronnie Price continues to be one of the biggest wastes of playing time in the NBA, producing 0 points and 2 assists in 17 minutes. It’s still quite confounding he’s starting over Lin, but if it means less time next to Bryant, Lin is better off.