In his second game back from injury, Kobe Bryant looked much, much better as a basketball player. He moved better. He attacked more. He turned the ball over less. He shot the ball well. He even threw down a dunk. In terms of individual performance, it was everything you could have hoped for from Kobe this early, this soon along his road to recovery. But it didn't make a difference. The Los Angeles Lakers were still flat with Kobe around, the ball movement wasn't as crisp as it has been, the shots did not fall at the same rate, and the defense was as poor as it ever was without Kobe around. Thus, the team fell to 0-2 with Mamba on the court, falling 114-108 to the upstart Phoenix Suns.
Tonight, the culprits were a poor shooting performance from the outside (if LA had hit closer to their average from three point range, the game would have been well in play) and another terrible interior defense performance, allowing 56 points in the paint to the Suns. Pau Gasol was much better on the offensive end tonight (hitting for 19 points on 11 shots) but was annihilated by a variety of Suns players defensively, from Miles Plumlee to the brothers Morris (Markeiff and Marcus). The Lakers were also killed on the glass, getting out-rebounded 43-33, perhaps because the Lakers only played Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill a combined 48 minutes, with no other PF or C (unless you count Shawne Williams) seeing the court. No Lakers player came close to double digit rebounds, and Hill led the team with 7 despite playing just 19 minutes.
So, another winnable game at home against an opponent the Lakers would desperately want to beat. Whether Kobe is to blame for it or not, his return to the team is off to an inauspicious start. With a tough "four games in five nights" road trip coming up against four teams with records equal to or better than LA, things might get worse before they get any better.