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Kobe’s 14 assists facilitate Lakers’ win over Thunder

Jan 27, 2013, 8:06 PM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

The Lakers seem to have found some life recently, in this season that seemed more and more like one that would die without a playoff berth despite the massive amount of talent that’s been assembled on the roster.

Kobe Bryant dished out 14 assists for the second straight game, and the results in each have not been a coincidence. The Lakers beat the Thunder on Sunday 105-96 for the team’s second straight victory, and the formula for L.A. is beginning to become established.

Distribute the ball evenly offensively, and players will remain engaged and invested on the defensive end, which not-so-magically will create a culture of winning that everyone can be a part of.

It starts with Bryant, who was in facilitator mode once again. He finished with 21 points on only 12 shots, to go along with nine rebounds and the 14 assists.

The question now becomes, can Bryant sustain both the level and style of this performance throughout the season and into the playoffs to give his team a fighting chance. It’s too early to tell, but a comment he made afterward might be viewed as a sign that it’s a possibility, at the very least.

“This feels a little different. Feels like we found an identity,” Bryant said, as reported by Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.

L.A.’s talent has never been at issue; how the team has chosen to use that talent to this point is what the problem has been. Some of that was due to players missing time due to injury — an extended absence from Steve Nash to start the season, followed by a five-game stint where Pau Gasol was unavailable due to a concussion may have prolonged the team’s ability to come together in this way.

The statistics support the notion that L.A. is better with Kobe passing more than he’s shooting: The Lakers are 13-3 when Kobe Bryant takes 19 or fewer shots in game, and 6-22 when he takes 20 or more shots, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

The numbers also bear this out in terms of his teammates’ shooting percentages.

Pau Gasol was 7-10 from the field, Steve Nash was 6-11, Earl Clark was 5-9, and Antawn Jamison was 4-6 (in just 13 minutes off the bench). As a team, the Lakers shot better than 55 percent from the field, and made over 41 percent of their attempts from three-point distance.

It didn’t hurt that both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had an off day shooting, with the pair combining to go 16-48 from the field over the course of the game. It wasn’t necessarily due to anything special the Lakers did defensively, especially where Westbrook was concerned — the Thunder were playing the final game of a six-game road trip that the team finished just 3-3, which may have factored in to the lackluster Sunday afternoon performance.

The Lakers’ second straight win still puts them at just six games below .500 for the season, and the team still trails eighth-place Houston by four games for the final spot in the Western Conference playoff picture. But beating the best team in the league record-wise will help L.A. mentally, and as long as Bryant can continue to facilitate as he did in this one, the Lakers may have finally found their blueprint for winning with this roster.

  1. Mr. Wright 212 - Jan 27, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    Kurt silent, but had the Lakers lost, he would have been writing an obituary on their season before the clock even hit 0:00. Gets someone else to write it.

    • Kurt Helin - Jan 28, 2013 at 7:51 PM

      You realize all this stuff is assigned long before the game starts, right? Apparently not. But sure, go ahead with your theory I hate the Lakers. And Brett too, for that matter.

  2. jerdogthompson - Jan 27, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    Coming from a non Laker fan.

    I’m stoked they won over OKC good confidence boost. Still got my 2 tix behind the Lakers bench for the April game against my Clipps. Wanna sell those for a big number and unless they have a shot at the playoffs I doubt anyone will pay up. Get back in the hunt Lakers and then let my FULL STRENGTH Clippers dismantle you on national tv. Yep that’s the ticket

    • loungefly74 - Jan 27, 2013 at 8:29 PM

      hope the 30 year wait was worth it (rolls eyes…)

    • spthegr8 - Jan 27, 2013 at 11:36 PM

      When the clippers do something worth while, you can talk s**t!!! But until then it just shows how LAME y’all have been over the years, for you too be SOOOO EXCITED & not done anything yet.

      Note too clipper fans: ACT LIKE YOU HAVE BEEN HERE BEFORE!!!!!

      On 2nd thought, you HAVEN’T BEEN HERE BEFORE!!! How LAME!!

      • badintent - Jan 31, 2013 at 7:46 PM

        It’s LA , EVERYONE IS AN ACTOR OR WRITER. ….UNTIL THE 8.8 PUENTE HILLS downtown EARTHQUAKE HITS.

  3. zblott - Jan 27, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    The Lakers are about to be really good if Kobe has officially ended 17 years of hero ball and has finally decided to do what it takes to improve his team as a whole with less focus on his own scoring numbers.

    • JHathwell - Jan 27, 2013 at 10:21 PM

      And yet, he managed to win 5 titles playing “hero ball”!

      What an amazing feat.

      • loungefly74 - Jan 27, 2013 at 11:01 PM

        exactly. bottom line…no other player in the league has experienced as much success…

      • lmoneyfresh - Jan 28, 2013 at 11:02 AM

        Surprisingly his hero ball only works when he plays next to dominant players.

  4. loungefly74 - Jan 27, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    i really enjoyed seeing MWP again bring the intense D…
    …the guys high fiving eachother after great buckets or defensive stops..
    …kobe dishing it out at the basline to a charging Laker (Pau or Dwight) for some easy points…
    …Nash being assertive and taking the floating runner to the lane…

    stuff they were suppose to being doing all season long. balance, guys…balance.

  5. fearthehoody - Jan 27, 2013 at 8:29 PM

    it took Kobe this long to figure out the other 4 players in Purple & Gold are not spectators??

    • badintent - Jan 31, 2013 at 7:49 PM

      yeah , he first had to read Coach Phil’s book, then have it read to him by Magic Johnson again…….. so he would understand the part about passing out of double teams

  6. cosanostra71 - Jan 27, 2013 at 8:48 PM

    They looked good. Gasol had a solid game, as did Nash and Metta. But Kobe won them the game today, especially with his play in the fourth quarter. Everytime Oklahoma got close, he made a big bucket. Dwight needs to play better though, and anyone who says it’s because Kobe is too “selfish” isn’t watching. He needs to demand the ball and be more aggressive. Honestly, his lack of shots is on him- and I hope he gets more aggressive here soon, because we need him to be.

  7. danielgmz - Jan 27, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    I’m not being a hater here but… You can’t expect Kobe to keep dishing 14 assists a game for the rest of the season. I’m sure this could be a temporal solution, but it’s not the definitive one. Nash has to step up his game and give Kobe the easy looks that he’s dishing, instead of receiving.
    You see, When you have one of the deadliest scorers in NBA history, you may like having him dishing 14 assists on 2 consecutive games, but you don’t want him to have a 14 point game or a 21 point game in a regular basis.
    Kudos to them, though. I hope they can get this on the right direction.

  8. coasttocoast12 - Jan 27, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    Kobe and Gasol won’t be playing like this for all of their remaining games, i’m not taking anything away from the Lakers they’ve been amazing in the last 2 games but gotta keep in mind that they’re still 19-25.

  9. eventhorizon04 - Jan 27, 2013 at 9:33 PM

    The LA Lakers are on a 2-game win streak while the LA Clippers are on a 4-game losing streak.

    Wow – it’s been awhile since we could say that.

    • eventhorizon04 - Jan 27, 2013 at 9:48 PM

      Anyways – the Lakers’ upcoming opponents in the next 3 weeks –

      New Orleans Hornets, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves without Kevin Love, Detroit Pistons, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics without Rondo, Charlotte Bobcats, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, and Boston Celtics (2/20)

      That’s 6 games against lottery teams plus 2 games against a team without its best player (Celtics) in their next 11 games. The Lakers have a real shot to make up lost ground the next 3 weeks if they maintain how they’ve played the past 2 games. The Lakers’ current 2 game win-streak doesn’t mean much, but if they go 8-3 (or better) over the next 11 games, that’s more significant.

      • eventhorizon04 - Jan 27, 2013 at 9:51 PM

        *Typo – I should have written “That’s 5 games against lottery teams plus 3 games against teams without their best player (Celtics + Timberwolves) in their next 11 games.”

        I think if Minnesota had stayed healthy this season, they would have been a playoff team.

      • loungefly74 - Jan 27, 2013 at 11:02 PM

        great breakdown. thank you.

      • Foul Dwimmerlaik - Jan 27, 2013 at 11:33 PM

        Great writing, eventhorizon04. I always look forward reading your posts. Doubly appreciated since you’re a non-Laker fan. Props to you.

      • aboogy123456 - Jan 28, 2013 at 10:13 AM

        And I like how Kurt wrote in one of his previous articles “Lakers are not going to make the playoffs”

        If they continue to defend and play as a team like they did yesterday, they should be fine. And like you said, they could potentially be at .500 after this trip. I also love how Pau has been playing, both on offense and defense, it looks like he has his legs back.

      • Kurt Helin - Jan 28, 2013 at 7:40 PM

        I stand by it, I don’t think the Lakers make the playoffs. If they keep this run going through the Grammy road trip we can talk, but they are going to have to prove to me they can keep playing this style and defending well for more than two games.

    • robones - Jan 28, 2013 at 9:17 AM

      The Lakers are 2-0 under Dumbtonis “third” season LOL! Haha Laker fans keep forgetting their team is 19-25, mediocre at best.

  10. halohonk - Jan 27, 2013 at 10:01 PM

    Thought the Lakers played today? Dont know who OKC played. Was a pretty good “TEAM” even if D12 wasnt a factor again. If their heads dont get in the way & that includes the coach, they can compete against anybody. Might be to little to late. Good game. Think i will savior that one for a couple of days. Im sure the Laker haters out there will find something to pile on about. Bottom line….Scoreboard baby!

  11. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Jan 27, 2013 at 10:15 PM

    The Lakers’ problem is their CONSISTENCY. They have shown that they can do it. It’s a matter of being consistent.

    Still lukewarm here despite the Laker win over the Thunder. I want to see consistent wins.

    That being said, let’s move on to the next game shall we?

  12. dal24la - Jan 27, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    How can you tell when Westbrook had an off game? He’s shooting 41% for the season. If he hit his season average that’s only 2 extra buckets in a 10 pt game…

  13. ebrownwareagle - Jan 28, 2013 at 12:03 AM

    Kobe Plays SHOOTING GUARD! He’s not the PG. It’s not his job to make sure everybody gets involved in the offense. He on the court to score and do what ever it takes to WIN! Some nights he will get a lot of assist. That means guys are hitting there shots. Other nights he has to score in bulk.

  14. dko83 - Jan 28, 2013 at 2:10 AM

    Is there a chance that such a “high basketball IQ” guy figured out his 30 shots a game weren’t getting it done? Nahhhhhhhhhhhh

  15. 32magicman - Jan 28, 2013 at 3:11 AM

    Kobe takes half as many shots….. lakers win again. Please let this be the norm for the rest of the season. These guys came to the lakers to play with you kobe, not to watch you shoot.

  16. aboogy123456 - Jan 28, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    The past couple games show how great of player kobe is. He has always been a great passer in addition to being a great scorer, and he understands defenses so well and has been taking what they give him. Yesterday everybody else stepped up and kobe was able to save his energy so he could hit those daggers at the end. I also love how well gasol has been playing, both on defense and on offense, it looks like he has his legs back.

    I’m so glad we don’t have to read these idiot posts this week about how kobe is a ballhog and they should trade him.

  17. omniusprime - Jan 28, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    Call him “Magic” Bryant! It’s good to see Kobe embrace passing instead of trying to play one on five. It’s good to see players step up and make shots when they get a pass from Kobe, plus now they’re cutting to the basket instead of standing around with their thumbs stuck up their behinds. Much better team play that translates to much better team defense.

    Did you see how well Pau and Dwight played together? Earl Who? Only a total fool would think of trading away Pau. Trash Nash is still a liability on defense and it only gets worse when Steve Flake comes back tomorrow.

    While beating one elite team finally after over half a season is over is nice but I need to see a lot more wins against elite teams on the road before I’ll believe they have a chance if they get into the playoffs. If they get into the playoffs they’ll have to win every series on the road and so far they’ve ben road wimps.

    Fire Dumbtoni!!! Trade Away Trash Nash!!! Trade Away Steve Flake!!!

  18. BigBeachBall - Jan 28, 2013 at 9:04 AM

    Sefa-slowsha

    • cosanostra71 - Jan 28, 2013 at 11:20 AM

      In all honesty, he played solid enough defense, Kobe was just on one last night.

    • lyndseymarieee - Jan 28, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      Sefelosha played great defense last night. Kobe just played better.

  19. redbearwoodall - Jan 28, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    Lakers won two in a row? Stop the freaking presses. They’ve still got a slim chance to make the playoffs. Why not talk about the Nets or Warriors, two teams that are outperforming expectations and are exciting to watch. News flash: people don’t care about the Lakers as much as you think.

    • cosanostra71 - Jan 28, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      “Why not talk about the Nets or Warriors, two teams that are outperforming expectations and are exciting to watch.”

      Because they do not generate as many page views, reads or comments.

      “News flash: people don’t care about the Lakers as much as you think.”

      Based on what? Clearly not reality. Three of the top 5 most commented articles on PBT right now are Lakers-related.

  20. lakerchuy - Jan 28, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    Lakers played some great defense. Dont make excuses for Thunder. Clark had durant on lock and they altered his shots. Westbrooke couldnt get clean looks driving to the basket. Still a lot of room for improvement, but this is a start for the Lake show.

  21. roeski - Jan 28, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    Even if the Lakers make the playoffs (which it doubtful) they will not get past the first round playing the Thunder, Spurs, or Clippers.

    • aboogy123456 - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:07 PM

      They are still improving faster than any of those teams you mentioned. Let’s wait to see how good they are when they do make the playoffs before you make such definitive statements.

      • roeski - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:33 PM

        Haha! 10th in the West and you think they are “improving faster” than the top three ranked teams….You better hope they improve faster than Utah, Houston, Portland.

        Why don’t we wait and see if they make the playoffs at all…

      • aboogy123456 - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:41 PM

        Yes, clown. They are tenth is the west but they are becoming a better team every week. when you get a new coach and players, don’t have training camp or time to gel, you are not going to be playing at your full potential. Plus howard is getting healthier.

        I said they are improving fastter than those teams because it’s true, and they have a lot more room to get better. For you to say they are not improving because they are bad NOW shows you don’t understand logic.

      • roeski - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:50 PM

        Guess I’ll reply to this since it won’t let me on the newest garbage.

        Resorting to name calling huh? Sad, sad Laker fan. When did I say they are not improving? You might want to read the comments first…

        You got two things right, they are bad now and they sure do have a lot of room to get better = 19-25…

        Like I said, they better get better before Utah, Portland, and Houston.

      • roeski - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:55 PM

        Becoming a better team while going 2-4 out of the last 6. Yea, that makes sense…

  22. aboogy123456 - Jan 28, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    The past couple games show how great of player kobe is. He has always been a great passer in addition to being a great scorer, and he understands defenses so well and has been taking what they give him. Yesterday everybody else stepped up and kobe was able to save his energy so he could hit those daggers at the end. I also love how well gasol has been playing, both on defense and on offense, it looks like he has his legs back.

    I’m so glad we don’t have to read these idiot posts this week about how kobe is a ballhog and they should trade him. I also like how Kurt recently started an article “Lakers are not going to make the playoffs”

    • Kurt Helin - Jan 28, 2013 at 7:38 PM

      I stand by that. I don’t think they make it.

  23. unxpexted1 - Jan 28, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    I’m going to paraphrase a poster on another blogsite i was on that made a very good point. I’m a big lakers fan but this assessement did give me pause.

    In essence he said, how long do you expect the lakers to win with everybody on the team not playing to their strenghts. For example:
    Kobe:More assists then shot attempts
    Nash: More shots than assist
    Pau: Coming off the bench
    Howard: averaging less then 10 attempts
    Artest: leading the team in shot attempts

    So its crazy that we are winning and basically playing to our weaknesses, and i’m happy to see it but i do question how long can we last with the whole team playing out of character. Even d’antoni’s coaching has been out of characterly good. We will see. Hope it continues.

  24. lemfaxx - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    Im not a kobe or lakers fan, but i want to put him at #1 for giving up his personal goal for the best of the team. If he continue to be like this, men the lakers r going to be a monster evertime they are in the court..

  25. progress2011 - Jan 28, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    AHAHAHAHAHAHA !!!!

    Two wins and the FAKERS have returned !!!!

    They were missing in action the past 5-6 games when the FAKERS were getting SPANKED !!!

    BANDWAGONERS !!!!

    • aboogy123456 - Jan 28, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      Progress, I’ve been on here constantly saying that all the lakers needed was time to get it straight. They are still learning how to play with each other, and I still think this team has a championship caliber roster, I haven’t wavered. The only problem is that they are still in a hole so they could possibly run out of time and not make the playoffs, but I think they are going in the right direction!

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