While the chances of the Los Angeles Lakers making the NBA finals for a fourth time in the Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are very slim, the duo are still able to dominant games while keeping the last spot in the race for the playoffs alive, while the shorthanded roster barely manages to put enough players on the court.
Kobe Bryant scored 24 points and added 9 assists while creating almost everything for the Lakers when it mattered as they beat the Memphis Grizzlies 86-84, making it clear that when playing well, even the gritty style a defense like the Grizzlies enforces is something they can handle, unlike high-paced games which force them to play transition defense.
Bryant made 23 passes which led directly to Laker scoring opportunities. The Lakers went 10-of-20 on his passes for 21 points. However, of the 10 misses, five of them were unguarded catch-and-shoot opportunities. Pau Gasol? Similar to Bryant, he did much more than the 19 points and 9 rebounds the stat sheet shows he produced.
He was responsible for 32 of the 86 points, while in 36 minutes of play, he initiated the offense on 25 of the 59 possessions. But eventually it comes to the small players and not general excellence throughout a game. Dwight Howard, with only 9 points and 10 rebounds on 3-7 from the field and 3-6 from the line, not getting too many touches on the ball, was pretty much the hero of the final plays.
He hit a free throw with 4.1 seconds to make it a two point game and stepped out of his skin, showing what a great defender he is even in a season like this, stopping Mike Conley from getting a good shot for a potential game-tying shot.
It’s hard seeing the Lakers making it past the first round, seeing the way they played against the Spurs this season and the apprant lack of coaching you see on every time they’re on the floor. Improvising, making the most of the individual talent, intelligence and experience this group has to offer. But when it’s up to making consistent stops on defense against teams a little bit more efficient than the Grizzlies on offense. Three wins in the most important weeks of the regular season don’t make you a favorite, like the preseason talks did.