In last two games, Kobe Bryant has shot less and passed more and the Los Angeles Lakers — the surprise disappointment of the season — won both times. Maybe, just maybe, the elixir has been found to turn around their season.
Bryant, one of the fiercest competitors in the NBA, surely hopes so. The league’s top scorer is willing to try anything to reverse the plight of his team that many thought at the start of the season was championship timber.
It has been just a pair of games, but the Lakers won both, including Sunday’s 105-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was L.A.’s first victory over a quality opponent this season. Significantly, Bryant had 14 assists, same as against Utah the previous game.
It was evident he made a concerted effort to involve his teammates, who had not risen their level of play to match his all season. But with Bryant functioning as the facilitator, the Lakers resembled a quality team for one of the few times this season.
“I think the way we are playing, we can be very successful,” Lakers center Pau Gasol said, who had 16 points in 36 minutes of action off the bench.
The Lakers held a team meeting in Memphis last week where they vowed to challenge each other and to operate as a team. They lost that game to the Grizzlies, but they insist they are a more unified group. And they have successive wins to point to as proof.
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“We’re doing a good job right now of just being real with each other and holding each other accountable,” Bryant said after Sunday’s game, during which he also had 21 points and nine rebounds. “That makes a huge difference. I’m trying to evolve and find out what we need as a ball club.”
They just might be on to something. Point guard Steve Nash benefited from Bryant’s playmaking with seven of his 17 points in the closing minutes against OKC. Center Dwight Howard only had eight points, but he seemed more energetic and positive about the outlook based on the share-the-ball mindset the team has adopted.
“We’re going to continue to work, continue to talk to each other,” Howard said. “The biggest difference is we’re holding each other accountable for everything.”
They remain out of the playoff picture right now, but the last two games give them true hope that they can make a post-season.