You think you've seen all the ways Kobe Bryant can win a game. The surprises keep coming.
He struggles. He looks fatigued. He turns around and scores 12 third-quarter points. Finishes with 13 assists. Shame on everybody else.
The Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons, 106-96, behind only 12 points from Bryant on Tuesday. But the rhythmic tapping of time that left him looking exhausted on the team flight Monday will have to skip a few beats.
This wasn't Bryant shooting two free throws with a torn Achilles' tendon. Or scoring a ton of points after suffering flu-like symptoms like he seemingly does every year.
It was a 36-year-old leading a team with an ugly record (5-13) against a team with a really ugly record (3-15). In early December. After skipping the morning shoot-around because he needed rest and got it, taking a 4½-hour nap at the team hotel.
Was he sick? Dehydrated? What was the deal?
"What I got, man, comes from Chronos. You can look that up," he said, alluding to the mythological elder who sometimes carries an hourglass and has a long, white beard. Better known as Father Time.
Bryant wasn't perfect, struggling against too many traps and finishing with 10 turnovers. A cynic would even call it his second consecutive triple-double. He made only four of 11 shots at the Palace.
He admitted he was fatigued in the first half, later adding a curse word to describe it, going scoreless on five shots while turning the ball over four times.
His first basket didn't come until a 19-foot turnaround with 7:25 left in the third quarter. Then they came quickly. After one of them, a three-pointer, he held up three fingers on each hand as he went back down the court, a rare display for him. The Lakers soon led by 21.
His best move might have been a miss. He got past former teammate Caron Butler with a crossover and went up for a reverse layup that skimmed off the rim. He stared hard at one of the referees after that.
It was probably more preferable than staring sluggishly at the walls of a hotel room earlier that day. He texted Lakers Coach Byron Scott and asked if he could skip the team shoot-around.
"He woke up this morning and was a little tired, wanted a little bit more rest. Nothing wrong with that," Scott said.
Said Bryant: "I [then] closed my eyes, it was 9:30, and I opened them again, it was 2 o'clock. What the hell happened? Then I stretched, ice bath, elevated my legs, [drank] a lot of fluids. Here I am."
Leaving mythology behind, Bryant found a more modern-day metaphor.
He did a nice job finding Wesley Johnson on the other side of the court for a three-pointer. He zipped passes to Jeremy Lin and Johnson again for three-pointers. But he got angry when Johnson couldn't quite handle another kick-out to the three-point line. (Bryant was charged with the turnover.)
"I couldn't be a quarterback. I'd be more like Tom [Brady]. They don't run their routes, they're going to know about it," Bryant said.
Jordan Hill must be a great pass-catcher. Bryant had only kind things to say about him after a 22-point, 13-rebound effort.
"We should just get used to the fact that he's going to have these performances consistently," Bryant said.
The only good stat line for the Pistons' starters was 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists from Josh Smith.
Nick Young had 19 points, Carlos Boozer had 14 and Johnson added 13 as the Lakers improved to 4-0 against the Eastern Conference.
"Kobe was a great facilitator tonight," Hill said. "He can pass the ball. You definitely have to keep an eye on him."