Getting off the floor with a win didn’t seem like such a happy occasion for the Los Angeles Lakers, who might have gotten a step closer to securing a spot in the NBA playoffs, but along the way lost Kobe Bryant, who is probably going to be out for a very long time with a probable Achilles tendon tear. Forget about the rest of the season and the playoffs – at his age, this could be something that ends a career.
The critics will now say that overplaying Bryant, with four games of at least 45 minutes out of his last seven, never less than 41 minutes in any case, is the reason for his body eventually falling apart. Sometimes accidents and injuries happen, regardless of how fit the player is and how much he’s playing. When it comes to Bryant, it’s not about D’Antoni deciding to keep him in, because at this stage of the season and the level of desperation the Lakers have been on, he wasn’t going to give himself any kind of rest.
Bryant landed awkwardly on his left knee in the third quarter, and then took another hit a couple of minutes later. He simply wouldn’t get off the court, finishing with 45 minutes and 35 points, including some big three pointers to put the Lakers in a position to win the game before limping off with just over three minutes left to play. Yes, even with noticeable pain, Bryant didn’t sit out a minute until it was a little bit too much to bare.
With two games left to play against the Spurs and the Rockets, the Lakers can’t afford to lose. The Utah Jazz are right behind them, waiting for a fall, knowing that the tiebreaker leans their way. So now, without Steve Nash, it’s going to be up to Pau Gasol and be the actual point guard of this team, because Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake cannot function as a creative backcourt. Gasol finished the game with a triple double, scoring 26 points, adding 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Dwight Howard beat the hack-a-Dwight tactics with 14-22 from the line and 28 points on the day.
Where does this leave the Lakers? Well, in a lot of trouble. Forget about the future implications. The now is what’s important in LA, always. And this just means the Lakers have no offense from their backcourt, although you might be fooled by the 118-116 win over the Golden State Warriors.
Kobe Bryant a hero? Maybe. Playing injured always draws those kind of comparisons. But it was always him, and him alone, that decided to put his body on the line, in order to save the franchise of the humiliation of not making the playoffs. That resulted in two things – a chance for someone else, rather than him, and you know how much Bryant dislikes that, to carry the Lakers for a few more games, and a possible end to his career, if you’re looking at the empty half of the glass.