Lakers’ Kobe Bryant hits Thunder with his best shots, and a few others
Don’t we know you from somewhere?
The day will come when Kobe Bryant won’t be Kobe Bryant, but it wasn’t Tuesday, when the Lakers’ wounded franchise player emerged from a three-week funk to bail out the franchise again, scoring 39 points, 15 in the fourth quarter in a 95-92 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Given a choice of taking fewer shots by Coach Phil Jackson, or making more of the ones he takes, Bryant, being Bryant, chose Plan B:
I’ll take the option with the 28 shots.
Bryant made 12 of the 28 and the Lakers survived another Thunder rally, so they’ll at least take a 2-0 lead to Oklahoma City, where their reception is expected to be even more thunderous.
Emerging from his recent subdued sphinx persona … a little … Bryant was asked what the last three weeks of going in and out of the lineup and missing shots had been like:
“Entertaining,” he said, smiling.
Was he aware of doubts he could still do it?
“Yeah,” he said. “After 13 years, you think people would know better.”
With Bryant playing with a broken finger, strained hamstring, sore knee and dying shooting percentage — he had missed 62 of 89 shots in his last four games — Jackson wanted him to chill.
Said Jackson before the game: “If Kobe’s going to play this style of basketball” — apparently meaning, if Kobe’s going to miss so many shots — “he’s got to adjust his game to match ours.”
“He can still play exactly the way he’s playing right now, but he has to limit the amount of shots he takes. Obviously he can’t shoot 30-something percent, he can’t shoot that percentage and have us be successful.
“Either the proficiency has to increase or else he has to become a playmaker out of those things. But he can still draw attention, can still make the plays. . . .
“I think that he’s well aware of it. He’s a little befuddled by it but coming to terms with this, he’s looking for a break-out game.”
Of course, with Bryant more inclined to find his own way than accept directions, how was Jackson going to convey this information to him?
“Emissaries,” Jackson said.
Perhaps Bryant refused to recognize the emissaries’ credentials. Sure enough, he came out firing as if there was no tomorrow, and, in a pleasant change, making some!
Then there was Kevin Durant, locked down by Ron Artest in his playoff debut, when he missed 17of 24 shots.
Artest, asked between games if he had been dominant, said, “That’s a good word.”
“That’s Ron-Ron’s specialty,” said Lamar Odom.
Or maybe Durant was just hurrying his shots. Tuesday, he slowed down enough to score 32 points, making 12 of 26 shots.
In Game 1, the Lakers big men dominated the Thunder front line. In Game 2, the young Thunder rose to the occasion, blocking 17 Lakers shots, including seven by their rookie backup center prodigy, Serge Ibaka, suggesting it’ll be a long weekend for Ron-Ron and the guys.