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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. Jesse - May 20, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    your dumb kobe is the best…up there with mj..dont go on opinion, look at his numbers and watch him play. He is better then mello, lebron, nash, and any other nba “star”. He can take on anyone and score.

  2. Ed - May 20, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    Stern allows Lakers as only team without a salary cap. LeBron will be a Laker next year along with Wade.
    They will change their name to the Lakers All Stars and jerry West will coach and Majic will be bench coach!

  3. Scott - May 20, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    Too bad peoople can’t focus on the positive attributes of an individual, sounds like a miserable life to me. Now it’s clear
    why Jesus told the crowd, “He that is without sin among you, let
    him cast the first stone” I’m sure a sinless person like you have a
    whole bucket load of stones to cast, but you would fare better if
    you get a life.

  4. Kb24Rulz - May 20, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    @ whitegirlwithbrownspot.. You cannot rape the willing, we all know that skank was more than willing, she just freaked at how amazing the Black Mamba is…don’t be hate’n on what you obviously want but will never have! Gold digging ho got what she wanted figuratively & literally!

  5. NBACardman - May 20, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    Magic dished out 13 assists during a playoff game in 1997? Where the heck was I?…

  6. cj4lakers - May 20, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    You know, I think the untold story here is that Kobe does pass a lot more than people give him credit for. The unfortunate thing about an “assist” is that the guy you pass it to has to make the shot, and his teammates just don’t usually have the awesome FG% that they’ve put up in Game 2 (and to some extent Game 1).
    Kobe doesn’t score 20 points every quarter he’s playing, and that’s not always due to a poor shooting percentage… the Lakers always brick a ton of 3s. Kobe usually picks some quarters to pass and some to shoot the lights out, but when his teammates are on, he’ll keep passing, as you saw in Game 2.

  7. THO - May 20, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    WHAT HAPPENS TO THE LAKERS WHEN THE CELTICS PUT THAT DEFENSE ON THEM? ONLY KOBE WILL SCORE THE REST OF THE TEAM WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SCORE WITH THE CELTICS DEFENSE

  8. AM - May 20, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    seriously dude ? if you dont have anything intelligent to add, keep it to yourself. This statement probably defines your own mentality !

  9. DK - May 20, 2010 at 2:57 PM

    why r u bothered abt someone’s immigration status or papers? Let anyone speak what they feel about basketball. Stop acting like morons who are ready to cry foul the moment they see immigrants.

  10. Tony - May 20, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    People is talking about the Celtic’s defense, so the Lakers have none? You have 2 of the best defenders in the NBA in Kobe and Artest and they are on the same Lakers team. If anything, I don’t see Rondo running around and scoring at will on the Lakers at all not with those two guys. At least with Kobe he’ll guard anyone and he’ll score on anyone. Artest will just shut them down completely while talking about their mother. Lakers will get their revenge, just as Kobe promised he’ll do against the Sun beating them a few years back in the playoff. I know for sure, Kobe has already draw up his master plans for the Celtics.

  11. nicawin - May 20, 2010 at 3:22 PM

    If u are nieve enough to believe that he raped her…..Ive got a bridge in London Ive been trying to sell for awhile!!! Send me your account info and Ill get it to u ASAP!!!!

  12. Tony - May 20, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    Kobe didn’t rape her like most of these naive people are saying. Supposedly she has like 3 sets of semens inside of her. She also had a freshly torn vagina. She made the claim after she slept with 2 other guys, either she slept with them or they raped her, she choose Kobe because he’s the one with the most money. Kobe was found innocent but had to make that whore rich in civil court.

  13. B - May 20, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    GO LAKERS.

  14. whitwdm - May 20, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    I don’t believe Magic Johnson played in 1997. His last game was May 2, 1996.

  15. hackpiper - May 20, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    Well, on paper the Lakers should be able to handle the Celtics old guys and neutralize that young whippersnapper. In fact, it will be a double-disgrace if LA cannot beat the Celtics this year – the Lakers have so many weapons and such raw talent that they should be easy favorites. The Celtics are not really at the same level they were at when they totally humiliated the Lakers a few years ago.
    There can really be no “vengeance” this year regardless of how well the Lakers play against the C’s.
    But we all know what can happen to conventional thinking. There’s really no big upside for LA here because they simply should win because of superior health and skills right now. It shouldn’t be a big deal. But if the Celtics can pull it off with all that they’ve dealt with, it will be a much worse humiliation than even two years ago for LA.
    By way of disclosure…I’m a Boston fan who is delighted to see our C’s exceeding all expectations right now. They’ve proven their grit and really have nothing to prove or lose here regardless of where they go in these playoffs. But I do expect the Lakers to win it all…and if they don’t it will be a monumental disgrace for them this time.

  16. [a] proxy - May 20, 2010 at 3:52 PM

    Lakers defense and triangle offense are getting the job done! The Kobe and Pau 1 -2 combo is a beautiful thing! Artest coming alive behind the 3-point line is a beautiful thing, Lamar with boards is a beautiful thing, the bench coming alive is a beautiful thing. THE LAKERS ARE A BEAUTIFUL THING RIGHT NOW! Let’s take this battle to Arizona and win it!

  17. Jon - May 20, 2010 at 3:52 PM

    The team to score 90 in the game in Lakers-Celtics series is going to win. Going to be a defensive series. Not going to be easy at all, but Lakers can get it done. They gotta chip on their shoulder.

  18. Goober Smooch - May 20, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    He only has to show papers if he is stopped for doing something else illegal moron

  19. [a] proxy - May 20, 2010 at 4:02 PM

    Dude, you took the words right out of my mouth. I couldn’t agree more. The Lakers are a way better defensive team than they were last year. Expect a damn good defensive match up between the Lakers and Celtics, but we’re going to dominate in the post and in the paint! GO LAKERS!!! BACK TO BACK CHAMPIONSHIPS COMING OUR WAY! THE BLACK MAMBA IS GOING IS GOING TO GET HIS COOKIE…LOL!

  20. In Reality - May 20, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    To those who don’t believe Kobe is a rapist…..you need to stop idolizing that rapist! Kobe is a rapist who got away with it by paying money to his victim so she would not testify. He IS a GREAT rapist, though!

  21. Joyce - May 20, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    I think you people should stick to talking about BASKETBALL..you know who “you” are. GO LAKERS!!!!!

  22. BobC - May 20, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    Thirteen assists is the highest total for a Laker since 1997? That says a lot about the the team since Magic left, doesn’t it.

  23. Tom - May 20, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    BE AFRAID CELTIC FANS A PURPLE AND GOLD MONSTER IS HEADED YOUR WAY.

  24. steve - May 20, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    I strongly dislike arrogant kobe and the lakers. BOSTON all day. Celtics got lakers number, just like 2008, ur going down laker fans

  25. Gary - May 20, 2010 at 5:23 PM

    Dynasties are boring…
    Where’s the drama of a decent contender? If this continues, I think I will turn off the TV and do something else. Yawn.

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