Kobe Bryant suddenly went from forcing too many shots to forcing too many passes.
He passed up wide open looks. Bryant threw passes to teammates not expecting the ball. He finished in what became his lowest-scoring game since his second NBA season with four points on 1 of 8 shooting and eight turnovers. Yet, the Lakers still beat the Phoenix Suns, 91-85, Tuesday at Staples Center in what marked their eighth win in the past 11 games.
Chalk it up to another weird twist in an unpredictable Lakers season. Even more stunning: Bryant didn’t play this way to send a message or make a point. He sounded giddy about his role too.
“I thought it was great, actually,” said an upbeat Bryant, who had nine assists. “Obviously, scoring four points and going one for eight isn’t necessarily a recipe for success. But I think the important thing is that we just moved the ball.”
That Bryant did.
His first attempt came with 7:30 left in the third quarter. Bryant’s first basket happened with 2:10 left in the game where he made an eight-foot jumper off the rebound. Routine drives to the basket often resulted in an unexpected pass to teammate that resulted in an easy look or a sloppy turnover. Bryant’s passivity played a large part of the Lakers scoring nine third-quarter points, the team’s lowest offensive output all season.
“He was trying too hard to get everybody else involved,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “You have to walk the fine line. He went way over the other line. He has to get back to the middle where he facilitates and is aggressive and it flows that way.”
Bryant’s been tackling this role for the past 11 games by becoming the team’s floor general while Steve Nash has morphed into a defacto shooting guard. Bryant’s averaged 8.27 assists during that stretch, ranking just behind Boston’s Rajon Rondo (11.1 assists), the Clippers’ Chris Paul (9.5) and New Orlean’s Greivis Vasquez (9.4).
But Bryant’s facilitating hardly looked smooth against Phoenix.
“Once every 17 years, I guess he’s allowed that,” D’Antoni said. “I wouldn’t be too tough on him.”
Fortunately for the Lakers, the Suns (17-36) weren’t too tough either. They shot only 41 percent and committed 19 turnovers.
Stil, Bryant believes his poor play provided a solid foundation that will ensure better results moving forward.
“It might look bad on me individually like it did tonight,” he said. “But I think in the long haul, defenses will have to think about it and play us. We’ll beat them either way. It’s not about us individually. It’s about us as a team.”
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