Please Put Your Hands Together for Kobe Bryant

This is why we wanted the man to sit for a spell. For most of this season he hasn't been himself, and while he was grinding out games with his assorted injuries, he wasn't letting his body get right. Tonight, after two weeks in recovery, the Kobe Bryant of yore returned to the stage. He looked fast, agile and confident that his limbs would do what he asked of them. His shots were true and unforced, none more so than the long-distance cruise missile with four seconds left that leveled Memphis. The final score was 99 to 98.

Those last eight seconds or so aside, this wasn't a game you'll want to hang on your wall and admire in your old age. It was turnovery throughout. Both sides had long stretches of leaky defense and missed big free throws in the fourth. You needn't be a hoops purist to bemoan the sloppy passes and not-exactly-textbook defensive rotations. You just need to be someone with standards.

The Lakers won the first and fourth quarters and got blown out in the middle two. It was at the beginning, when they ran out to a 14-point lead, and at the end, when they came back to win after trailing by 11, that their defense resembled the furious swarm that straight dominated while Kobe was out. In between it looked like crap. O.J. Mayo was left open on the perimeter way too much, various Grizzlies were driving the lane unchallenged, and for the third time this season the Lakers failed to control Zach Randolph. The end-game defensive stats are good, but it was a lumpy performance.

When the Lakers had the ball, they generally made the Memphis D look better than it is. Kobe was terrific, logging 32 points on 79% True Shooting, along with seven rebounds, six assists, a pair of blocks, three steals and only two turnovers. (Yowza.) Nobody else earned high marks. Pau Gasol had a better game than people are giving him credit for but missed some easy looks and three fourth-quarter FTAs. Derek Fisher, the Master of All Things Clutch, likewise honked two free throws late in the contest. Andrew Bynum was OK when he was on the court but played only 24 minutes before fouling out. Ron Artest played strong defense on Rudy Gay but was atrocious on O.

A hidden key to this game, as has often been the case recently, was the Lakers' defensive rebounding. Memphis is the best offensive rebounding team in the league, for the season snagging about 32% of their own misses. Tonight they recovered only 23% of available offensive rebounds, which helped limit their overall production to 1.02 points per possession. They typically score 1.08 per trip. Gasol's nine defensive rebounds were crucial, as were Kobe's seven.

The Lakers are now 43-14 and remain half a game (plus a tiebreaker) behind the Cavs. They fly to Dallas tonight to face the Mavericks on Wednesday. So far this year, they're 10-4 on the tail ends of back-to-back sets.

 

Poss.

TO%

FTA/
FGA

FT%

3FGA/FGA

2PT%

3PT%

EFG

TS%

OReb Rate

DReb Rate

PPP

L.A.

95

18

0.34

73

0.22

53

35

53

57

17

77

1.04

Mem.

96

19

0.24

75

0.17

49

36

50

53

23

83

1.02

Follow Dex on Twitter here.

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