There Kobe Bryant sat by his locker with his face down. His voice muffled. He constantly cleared his throat.
The site looked as depressing as the Lakers’ 79-77 loss Tuesday to the Indiana Pacers.
“I was tired,” said Bryant, who had been battling the flu all day. “You know how it is. When you get sick, you just feel drained.”
Here’s a sign Bryant really feels out of it. After posting 40 points, Bryant actually blamed himself for the loss.
“I have to minimize my mistakes,” Bryant said. “Having 10 turnovers is way too many for me. I have to work on perfecting that and bringing that down. I felt like I played to the crowd too much.”
Bryant certainly played to the crowd all right. His three-pointer tied the game at 77 with 24.5 seconds remaining. Bryant grabbed more rebounds (10) than Pau Gasol (nine) and Dwight Howard (eight). His 113th career 40-point game marked the lone highlight in an otherwise miserable offensive performance.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni still marveled at it: “He willed it to them and it wasn’t easy.”
Lakers forward Metta World Peace remained numb to it: “That’s an amazing 40, but Michael Jordan had 50 with the flu. It’s not impossible to play with the flu. Only a few will do it, but it’s not impossible to play with the flu.”
Bryant did that and beyond. But he still holds himself at fault for those 10 turnovers.
“I have to take care of my responsibilities,” Bryant said. “I can’t worry much about things that I can’t necessarily control. Something I can control is minimizing my mistakes.”
The Lakers made plenty of other mistakes.
They went 23 of 43 from the free throw line, including consecutive misses from Dwight Howard and World Peace as the Lakers trailed 75-74 in the final minutes.
The Lakers went six of 28 from three-point range. The entire bench scored five points. Meanwhile, the shooting numbers for Darius Morris (0 of 6), World Peace (1 of 8) and Gasol (2 of 9) looked horrible.
The loss became official once Pacers guard George Hill drove past World Peace and Gasol for the game-winning layup that Howard couldn’t swat away.
Bryant was at least honest about that play.
“It was just a blown coverage,” he said. “We talked about switching it at that split second. It was a misunderstanding with Pau and how we’re supposed to play that. We’re supposed to switch and stay in front of him. That coverage was a little off that split second. It gave George Hill the venue he needed to make a tough shot. It’s a tough layup. He’s a good player, kudos for him for knocking it down.”
Kudos for Bryant for showing his leadership by blaming himself for the loss even though he didn’t deserve it. Sure, Bryant forced the issue at times and went only 12 of 28 from the field. Bryant missed a free throw as the Lakers trailed 74-72 with 2:27 remaining. And those 10 turnovers, such as when Bryant stepped out of bounds as the Lakers fell behind 75-74 at the 1:29 mark.
But Bryant isn’t responsible for the loss. He’s responsible for keeping the game close.
“It boggles my mind I had 10 turnovers,” Bryant said. “Those are things I can minimize. My responsibility is for me to pick everybody up. It doesn’t matter if we miss 20 free throws. We still could have won the game. The fact is we had 10 possessions where we didn’t get good looks at the basket because I turned it over. Even though we missed 20 free throws, we still had the opportunity to win the game at the end. My responsibility is not to go home and say that’s 20 free throws, so be it. That’s not what I do. I look at my mistakes and I correct those.”
Yup, it sounds like Bryant’s really sick.
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