The most important thing about getting angry as an athlete is venting it in the right direction. The Los Angeles Lakers need a focused, balanced Kobe Bryant if they’re to make it into the playoffs, which is still reachable after 3 straight wins, and an incredible individual display by a player Mark Cuban suggested the Lakers should amnesty.
In truth, the quote was taken a little bit out of context, but Bryant heard enough. He tweeted “Amnesty That” after the game, as if to show that part of what drove him to the 38 point performance, along with 12 rebounds and 7 assists, was being mentioned as someone the Lakers might not be interested in next season, because of the salary (over $30 million) he’ll be paid next season. And to think someone would keep paying someone that much money, even if it’s not a salary-hit, to not play basketball.
How dominant was Bryant? He outscored the rest of the Lakers starters (Howard with 9, Nash with 20, Clark with 6, MWP with 1) by two points. It isn’t the first time this season that this has happened, but it was the first time, after five losses, that it came along with a win.
After struggling for such a long time with his long range shooting (including a 2-37 from beyond the arc stretch going into the game), Bryant found a way to make shots, mostly abusing O.J. Mayo. He made 13 field goals at an average distance of 18.6 feet from the basket. That’s Bryant’s fourth-highest average on made field goals in a game this season with the Lakers losing each of the three games with a higher rate. Sounds like something is changing.
That’s why he’s Kobe Bryant. He’s not John Smith. No disrespect to John Smith, whoever he is. That’s what he does. That’s what he loves. That’s what he trains for.
And although his “clutch” numbers haven’t been impressive, his fourth quarter performance in the 103-99 win, out-dueling Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavs who scored 30 points to go with his 13 rebounds, were probably his best all season. Bryant made all 5 of his field goal attempts in the 4th quarter, and for the first time since April 2, 2008, against the Blazers. It was also the first time in over a month with Bryant making a 3-point field goal attempt in the fourth quarter. It’s been that bad for him lately, on an individual level. It’s not only Dwight Howard that’s been affected by the whole ugly mess.
And Bryant, despite going all berserk with his shooting, did add 7 assists, which contributed to 18 points. His total point contribution on the night, of 56 points, was tied for a season high. It was the third time in his career with at least 38-12-7, and the first time he’s done so while shooting better than 50%.
Bryant also continued a less impressive tradition this season by picking up his NBA-leading 13th technical putting him ahead of DeMarcus Cousins with 12. At 16, the played gets a one-game suspension.