The short-handed Los Angeles Lakers need Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant to put in special performances to have a chance against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night. The Rockets are winners in each of their last four games and nine of their last 11. The Lakers are losers in their last three games and four of their last five, and that was with a healthy squad.
Part Two: Kobe Bryant
Whereas Steve Nash was as good as advertised (Part One), Kobe Bryant has been even better than advertised. Frankly, the Mamba has been amazing, even if the team has been failing. Constantly, he’s carried the offensive load, and he’ll probably continue to do so with Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard set to miss Tuesday’s game with injury.
Jordan Hill’s 12 points and seven rebounds per game over the last three games will also be deeply missed. In total, the Lakers are losing an average of 36.2 points per game regularly provided by the injured trio of big men.
Kobe may have to score 60 points on Tuesday.
For all the curious minds, Bryant has not topped 60 points since Feb. 2, 2009 at Madison Square Garden, when he dropped 61. So, that may not be likely. Forty points? Sure.
When asked if the injuries put even more of a burden on Bryant, Coach Mike D’Antoni responded, “It shouldn’t; I don’t think he can do any more.”
In his 17th season, Kobe Bryant has played better than just about anyone could have expected. Even in Sunday’s loss, he scored 18 of the Lakers’ 22 fourth quarter points. He shot 7-12 in the closing quarter and hit unbelievably difficult shots to bring the Lakers back.
L.A. was down 10 points with six minutes remaining and got to within three points with 36 seconds remaining due to Bryant’s heroics.
On the season, the Mamba is shooting 48.1 percent from the field. If he keeps pace, this will be the best shooting season of his career. To go along with that, Bryant is also averaging 4.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds. If the Lakers were winning, he would be considered an MVP candidate without a doubt. After all, he’s leading the league in scoring at 30.5 points per game and doing it efficiently.
There is a danger that Kobe may take time off on the defensive end because he needs to carry the Lakers’ offense on Tuesday night. With both Jeremy Lin and James Harden capable of scoring the basketball, the Lakers’ guards must balance their energy on defense with their energy on offense—especially Bryant.
Robert Sacre will start at center. Metta World Peace may start at power forward and even play some center against the Rockets. D’Antoni was not sure if he would start Morris or Jamison, but both should figure to play considerable minutes. With a record of 15-18 on the season, the Lakers are already in a deep hole, and these injuries only threaten to make it deeper. Tip-off is 5pm Pacific Time.