Kobe Bryant did the unthinkable. No, he didn’t ask for a trade to cancel out his no-trade clause, although it’s been a nice urban legend making it’s way around the NBA. Bryant actually gave up on being selfish and instead of taking the final shots in the Los Angeles Lakers 97-94 win over the Boston Celtics, he prefered dishing assists to Andrew Bynum.
Did Bryant completely give up on stroking the final shots? No way, but he did make it harder for the Boston Celtics, still one of the toughest defenses in the NBA, to decide on who to focus. Bryant tried to shoot with the Celtics up 94-91, but it turned into an assists as Bynum stretched to the limit of his capabalties and managed to somehow sink it in.
Next posession – Bryant shows his crunch time prowess, 95-94 Lakers lead. Brandon Bass misses a big shot for the Celtics, and Bryant does what he’s been unable to do all season – push the game away from himself, while everyone in the Staples Center was thinking about Bryant going up for another tough fadeaway, and Bryant found Bynum, in the paint, who’s very hard to stop one on one, to finish the game with an easy 2.
Kevin Garnett had one of the toughest nights he’ll have all year, fighting Bynum and Pau Gasol under the baskets. Not too pleased about playing as Center this season, Garnett seems to have gotten used to the situation, with Bass doing a good job (15 points, 8 rebounds) as a starter. Not enough against the Lakers’ twin towers, still not broken apart by trades. Gasol scored 13 and grabbed 13 rebounds, adding 5 assists. Andrew Bynum finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds, enjoying the clutch time spotlight.
Bryant? Nothing too special. He scored 26 points while shooting a reasonable 9-20 from the field. But 7 assists, and more importantly, his defense and decision making on offense in the closing minutes and seconds made the difference against a very tough, but equally limited in depth Boston Celtics team.
If Kobe Bryant is The Mask right now, Rajon Rondo can be called the Shade, due to his eye getting poked during a weekend game. He wasn’t allowed to play with the “protective gear”, but that didn’t really bother him. Rondo had no problem dicing and dishing, finishing with 24 points and 10 assists. The Celtics got nothing from their bench – Only 11 points, with all their lineup playing at least 35 minutes.
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen struggled against the Lakers’ excellent home defense, which closes up lanes and forces tough outside shots. Paul Pierce was only 4-14, finishing with 13 points. The Lakers didn’t get much from their bench as well, but more than what the C’s could show. That was enough to give them the edge, alongside Derek Fisher surprising with 9 points and Metta World Peace even more shockingly with 14.
The big challenges at home bring out the best from the Lakers, and the best of Bryant. Like in the Miami Heat game, his decision making, whether by shooting or with his passing and pace-handling, was top notch. The Lakers, according to rumors, are still looking to pull of a trade, because everyone knows that this roster isn’t enough to give Kobe what he wants, a sixth ring. At least Bryant, maybe as a one time thing only, is not playing the ruthless dictator every night.