Render Unto Kobe That Which Is Kobe's

For a few moments there, we were oh so close to crisis mode. With 2:40 left in overtime in Sacramento tonight (the first of two OTs, as it turned out), the Los Angeles Lakers trailed the Kings by seven. Staring us in the grill was a second straight loss, not to mention a concussed Ron Artest, a curiously fading Andrew Bynum and a Kobe Bryant possessed of an increasingly maimed shooting limb. Bad times loomed, my friends. Bad times indeed.

Instead, Saturday night finds us awed by yet another death-defying Mamba rescue operation. Playing through a strained elbow that robbed him of all feeling in his right forearm, Kobe set in motion a 112-103 Laker comeback win first with stellar defense, stifling Tyreke Evans on two key fourth-quarter possessions, and then with a pair of three-point hammer blows in the second OT. His 38 points (on 62% True Shooting) were crucial to a Laker offense that struggled with dead legs and turnovers. His four assists, seven boards and four steals helped put the Christmas Day horror show a little bit in the rearview mirror.

For a stretch of about a quarter and a half, Kobe's latest injury rendered him an offensive nullity. He simply couldn't use his right arm, so it fell to his colleagues to keep the Lakers alive. Credit goes to Shannon Brown (15 points and seven reebs) for his best performance in well over a month, and to Pau Gasol for an efficient 24 points and six well-timed blocks. With 23 seconds left in regulation Pau missed a pair of free throws that would've put the Lakers ahead. Redemption found him, however, when he tipped in a Derek Fisher miss with 0.4 seconds left in the first OT to erase the Kings' seven-point lead.

Aside from Kobe's heroics, the macro story of the game is how the Laker D recovered from a horrid start to lock down the Kings. Take a look at Sacramento's points per possession by period.

PPP Scored

1Q

2Q

3Q

4Q

OT1

OT2

Game

Kings

1.35

1.08

0.95

0.73

0.78

0.25

0.95

That downward arc is evidence of smart, effective adjustments. At the outset of tonight's game the Kings were getting intimately familiar with the rim, thanks to sharp halfcourt execution that the Lakers failed to handle and runouts after Laker turnovers. The latter dried up as the game wore on, and eventually LA's huge inside height advantage went to work on the Kings' shooting numbers. It helped that Evans, for all his promise, appears unduly fond of the 20 foot pull-up jumper. He shot 9 for 23 with five turnovers, and never went to the line.

On the subject of struggling youngsters, we turn to Andrew Bynum. His D was fine today. His nine boards and four assists were nice. But he missed 8 of 9 field goal attempts, which just isn't like him. His offense is usually the dependable aspect of his game, and right now it's in a steep slide. On Monday night he gets to work against the Suns' squishy interior D. Let's hope it's a cure for whatever troubles him.

Tonight's was a wildly entertaining contest. We'll remember it as one of the truly delightful moments of the season. December games don't always look sexy on the schedule, but fans ignore them at their own peril. If you watched tonight, take a moment to compliment yourself on your excellent judgment.

 

Poss.

TO%

FTA/
FGA

FT%

EFG%

TS%

Off Reb%

Def Reb%

PPP

L.A

108

17

0.26

72

48

51

38

68

1.04

Sacto

108

16

0.19

65

43

45

32

62

0.95

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