A very good game for Jeremy Lin wasn’t enough for the Los Angeles Lakers in a 109-106 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, as Kobe Bryant continues to play out the balanced, unselfish player act. Not surprisingly, the team is much better when he limits the shots he takes and focuses most of the time on making others better.
We’ve already gone through the theory of Bryant’s passing trends. In the end, it doesn’t matter if he’s doing it because he thinks it’ll get critics off his back or because he realizes it’s better for the team. When Bryant plays like a guy looking to make his teammates better and not his own box score and career stat numbers, the Lakers look equal to possibly the best team in the Western conference, which you wouldn’t expect from a team at 10-23 so far.
Jeremy Lin had his best game in a while, coming after two bad ones. He scored 20 points (tied for a team high with Ed Davis) to go with five assists, shooting 9-of-14 from the field and knocking down a couple of 3-pointers. However, he didn’t take a single shot in the final 5:11 of the game after doing very well in both finding other guys and scoring himself earlier in the fourth quarter. He also had a moment of getting scolded by Bryant for not fouling Mike Conley to stop the clock, which meant Bryant had to run up in panic to get it done.
Bryant himself scored 15 points with 9 rebounds and 8 assists on 6-of-14 from the field, playing 33 minutes. It’s good for him, and it’s good for the Lakers, that he isn’t on the floor too much. Surprising that it took them so long to realize such a trivial thing. But it’s Byron Scott who is coaching, so maybe we shouldn’t be so stunned.
Kobe Bryant did a beautiful spin move and dish to Ed Davis which resulted in a hard foul on the Lakers forward, who only made one of two which ruined the Lakers’ chance of tying the game. The Grizzlies made their two free throws and left only 0.6 seconds on the clock. Instead of trying to go with something a bit more surprising (tip in? other player?) the Lakers did what they always do: Give it to Kobe. Lin inbounded the ball, Bryant shot with three players on him and missed. Not his fault that he missed in a tough shot with no time to do something else, but it can’t always be him to take that final shot, especially with his poor record of making them (according to ESPN, he has now missed 13 straight game-tying/go-ahead FG in final 5 seconds of 4th quarter/OT. His last make was March 2012.)
This is the kind of game Jeremy Lin can bring forth every night he’s on the floor. He’s that good, only it’s not happening. Things get in the way. It has something to do with him and his confidence also. But the potential is there, as the Lakers once again played a lot better when he was on the floor. Kobe Bryant actually changing seems to be genuine, but it’ll take more than two or three games to know for sure. This kind of balance will be good for the Lakers, even in a season that’s going nowhere.