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Lakers' Bryant now doubtful for tonight

Feb 16, 2010, 3:44 PM EDT

Update 3:39 pm That voice you hear is Lee Corso saying “Not so fast my freinds…”
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Kobe Bryant is now doubtful for the Lakers game against Golden State tonight. Kobe had a full practice with the team yesterday and everything looked good to go, but this morning his ankle had responded poorly. He will be evaluated again before the game. If Kobe does not play tonight, the Lakers are off until a Thursday night game against Boston.

11:16 am Kobe Bryant practiced without a limp on Monday. Andrew Bynum practiced as well and while his hip was sore afterwards he is a go for tonight against Golden State.

The Lakers are back at full strength. The question is, will they keep winning with defense? Yes, defense, that is how the Lakers won their last three games without that star pair.

It’s confusing to the eye, because the Lakers offense looked more fluid without Bynum and Bryant — without key guys who can create their own shot the Lakers relied far more on the triangle offense to get their looks. They also relied on Pau Gasol, who is maybe the best passing big man in the game, so other players were cutting and moving off the ball because they would get rewarded.

All that said, the Lakers offensive was worse without Bynum and Bryant in (as you should expect). The Lakers points per 100 possessions in its last two games were 101.1 (Utah) and 107.4 (San Antonio), both below their season average of 109.4 (which is well off last year).

What was better was the Lakers defense. Without Bryant on the wing and Bynum in the paint, the Lakers focused better on team defense. The Lakers in their last two games gave up 85.3 (Utah), and 94.7 (San Antonio) points per 100 possessions. On the season, the Lakers give up 102.2 points per 100 possessions, and that is second best in the NBA.

If the Lakers want to contend, if they want to beat the Cavaliers (or whoever represents the East in the Finals), they are going to have to do it with defense. And with Bryant and Bynum in the lineup.

  1. Craig W. - Feb 16, 2010 at 12:03 PM

    It would seem counter intuitive that defense would be better without Kobe and Andrew. However, teams often pull together for short periods of time without their stars – usually by banding together and covering for each other; an essential ingredient on defense. This generally can’t last too long as habits resurface and people get tired of the exceptional effort expended. In this case the All-Star Game came at just the right time.
    I think the key thing Laker fans can hope for is that Kobe will ‘roam’ a little less on defense – his teammates have proved they can handle their part of the load – and Andrew will realize just how much of the game starts with defense. Fortunately, they have Phil there to remind them of these facts.

  2. John - Feb 16, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    While the Lakers did seem to play inspired ball in Kobe’s absence, it was only three games, surely too small a sample to draw conclusions. Plus, you have the fact that teams facing a Kobe-less Lakers team probably let down their guard a tad bit. I do agree with your assessment that the other Lakers tend to stand around more often when Kobe is in the game, knowing he’ll take a significant number of shots. I believe Kobe needs to be more keen to this fact and keep his teammates involved more. When the Lakers are on their game, I don’t think any team in the East is going to beat them in a seven game series, notwithstanding what happened in the two games against the Cavaliers.

  3. Doug - Feb 16, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    It is good to see the Lakers back at full stength. I also enjoy seeing the others step up when needed in the absense. Kobe was certainly needed in the All-Star Game to close huh?!!!! I say lets work out the weak spots and lets go get another Championship!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Hipolito M. Wiseman - Feb 18, 2010 at 10:04 AM

    Hey, absolutlty love the blog and will definatley be coming back in the near future!

  5. Demetria Messey - Feb 20, 2010 at 4:49 AM

    Your post piqued my interest. Please give us a more indepth post if you get a chance.

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