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NBA Playoffs, Lakers v. Suns Game 2: Showcasing the impressive, empowered, and balanced Laker offense

May 20, 2010, 3:31 AM EDT

bryant.pngAfter the Lakers’ dominant performance in Game 1, Alvin Gentry wisely noted that “[the Suns] can survive a Kobe game, but [they] can’t survive a Lamar game, and
then Pau playing extremely well, and then Jordan Farmar really coming
in and having a solid game and then Artest playing the way he is.”

He was right, in a sense. Gentry’s statement deserves clarification, though: the Suns can survive a big scoring game from Kobe, but not necessarily a big game from Kobe. Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals could be Bryant’s best performance of the postseason so far, and he only scored 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting. The real gem in Kobe’s stat line was his 13-assist mark, and it was Bryant’s facilitation of a brilliant Laker offense that brought L.A. their eighth consecutive win.

Kobe’s 13 assists not only set a personal best for his playoff career, but according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, it was the highest assist total by any Laker since Magic Johnson matched the mark in 1997.

Of course, the immediate relevance of Kobe’s terrific performance is far more pressing than its historical context. It’s nice to know how this one game stacks up in comparison to Kobe’s other playoff performances and those of his fellow Lakers, but it’s far more crucial at this stage to understand and embrace just how much he helped his team to take a commanding 2-0 series lead last night.

The Suns are not a strong defensive team, regardless of their current reputation. That said, the most prominent story coming out of Game 2 should not be how Phoenix lost the game, but how Los Angeles won it. Stories of failure make for far more compelling theater, but in this case the Suns’ poor defense was only the catalyst for the loss. The Lakers, fueled by ball movement that was epitomized but not limited to Bryant’s assists, played like the elite offensive outfit that they are.

It’s a bit unfair that Bryant’s performance stole the show, especially considering how ridiculously effective Pau Gasol (29 points, nine rebounds, five assists) was in the fourth quarter. Gasol was a go-to option for the Lakers down the stretch, and though the Suns were within striking distance at points in the fourth, it was Pau’s scoring — not Bryant’s — that pushed Los Angeles over the top.

I think what makes Kobe’s night stand out amongst that of his teammates was how unique his playmaking was. A number of Lakers were productive scorers — Ron Artest finished with 18 points, Lamar Odom with 17, Andrew Bynum with 13, and Jordan Farmar with 11 — and all of them willing passers as well, but none of those contributors are in a position to defer.

Gasol was fantastic. He was put in a situation to succeed due to his skills, match-up, and circumstances, and he came through in flying colors. He’s still the second fiddle on this team though, and his dominance was by design. The Lakers (or more appropriately, Kobe) worked through Gasol with the game on the line, and he produced.

I know this all may seem like undue lavishing of an oft-praised star, but Kobe will always lie at the crux of what the Lakers hope to accomplish. In Game 2, he faced pressure but did anything but struggle. There will obviously be times between now and the end of the Lakers’ season where L.A. will need more than 21 points from Bryant to win, but his scoring in those situations is no more important than his willing deference in others.

That’s when Gasol will truly shine. It’s when Odom will go from from invisible to ever-present, and when Artest will command defensive attention. As the Celtics continue their quest to upset the Magic in the East, keep these Lakers at the back of your mind. They’re out for blood, championship-ready, and clicking both mentally and physically.

  1. Anthony - May 20, 2010 at 5:37 PM

    If the Lakers meet the Celtics in the Finals, I am sure the Lakers will take them down without a problem this time (which sucks because I am rooting for the Celtics).
    Kobe is on a retribution spree, just taking out anything in his path that stood in his way in the past. Both the Suns and the Celtics are two teams that are at the top of his hit list.
    The Celtics were hungry for their 2008 title, which is why they won it. But the Lakers are more hungry for revenge against the Suns and the Celtics than they are hungry actual title this year. The title is merely the desert at the end of the meal for them.

  2. Dwight - May 20, 2010 at 5:40 PM

    Yeah, the Lakers are much healthier than the Green Goblins, those rumors about Kobe’s ankle, knee, finger, etc., and Bynum’s pretend knee injury are all just hype for the masses.
    Aside from the hyperbole with the “totally humiliated the Lakers a few years ago” comment, most of your post was kind of credible up until that lame “superior health” nonsense, although you are probably right about the skills. Of course, after that you fell in a hole and couldn’t get out of it.
    Nobody would ever have guessed that you were a Celtics fan until you told us…thanks! Yeah, even if the Meltics lose, they will have proven they are gods that walk the earth, but unless the Lakers win it all they will be like so much pond scum. Geez…

  3. Dwight - May 20, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    Just because you are a child molester, it does not mean Kobe is a rapist. I’m sure a woman whose underwear contains “remnants” of visits with several men doesn’t tell us anything about her, either. Why people (or one moron using lots of different IDs) feel they have to libel Kobe is beyond me, unless they are simply jealous of his success, money, or whatever. Perhaps it is time that you grew up…in any event, if you want to talk about basketball feel free to join in, if you want to talk this trash, go back to your cell and banter with your “buddy”.

  4. Samene - May 20, 2010 at 6:01 PM

    Failed to say:
    Kobe made Gasol better.
    Kobe made Artest better.
    Kobe made Lamar better.
    Lots of people never fail to say the opposite. No doubt about it in this game.

  5. Wallsy - May 20, 2010 at 7:34 PM

    Celts in Five

  6. willie - May 20, 2010 at 7:46 PM

    hey sap…use your funk & wagnells on occassion!

  7. luffy - May 20, 2010 at 8:28 PM

    To all the Celts fans out there, please… before you say something, take note that Bynum and Ariza were injured when the Celtics beat the Lakers in 2008, you think they’d win if those two were there? seriously? In the 2009 season, the Lakers swept the Celts in the regular season w/both teams having their complete and healthy line-ups. Lakers in 5…
    To all the rapist out there, please focus on basketball…

  8. lance - May 20, 2010 at 10:07 PM

    DEFENSE wins championships. Who plays the best D.

  9. Joseph - May 21, 2010 at 2:10 AM

    Are your skirts clean? For your information, the alledged rape victim refused to testify against Kobe even as the Prosecutor, practically in tears, begged her to do so. By the way, the prosecutor was a candidate for a high state office. He lost.

  10. Joseph - May 21, 2010 at 2:14 AM

    Excellent observation

  11. lakersin6 - May 21, 2010 at 2:47 AM

    The lakers will beat celtics in six…they have the homecourt advantage this time,plus ron artest,andrew bynum…they are not the same lakers in 2008,they have improved….gasol and bynum will dominate the boards..its payback time…kobe will get his revenge this time…

  12. defensewins - May 21, 2010 at 3:32 AM

    Defense wins championships. Let’s see how well-oiled they are against the best D in the league.

  13. lungs - May 21, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    how can you hate coby karl? he’s such a nice guy.

  14. sap - May 22, 2010 at 4:19 PM

    lol good one,I dont hate coby Karl. just Kobie briant everybody is a spelling teacher. they need to bash my spelling becouse they know there lakers are going to loose to the celtics. lol. no, they do have a chance. i now see that after they killed my suns.but i stuill like the celtics.

  15. sap - May 22, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    hey tr i dont give a crap how to spell cobe or kobie or kobe or what ever. and S.A.P. is my name. and yours is jackass. if you need to insult pepole you have issues. this is a basketball blog a**hole. and you suck. i hope i spelled everthing ok for you.

  16. sap - May 22, 2010 at 7:15 PM

    tr im sorry, i dont want to be like that. im sorry i disrespected you. i dont even know you. this is a basketball post not a see how can i piss off the other more comp. so agin im so sorry i dont want to make anybody mad for any basketball game. I was out of line in a big way. I was having a bad day, its all my bad.
    Good luck to the lakers, and the suns as well. I just want to see the celtics and lakers or the celtics and suns, they are both great rivels.
    I am a true basketball fan. And buy the way I am an american, I just cant spell.

  17. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 22, 2010 at 8:44 PM

    Hey sap, after that last comment of yours, you got my respect. And I’m an avid Laker at that.

  18. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 22, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    Hey sap, after that last comment of yours, you got my respect. And I’m an avid Laker FAN at that.

  19. sap - May 24, 2010 at 9:15 AM

    SUNS WIN SUNS WIN, this just might be a fight yet.

  20. sap - May 24, 2010 at 9:17 AM

    SUNS WIN SUNS WIN, this just might be a fight yet.

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