Before boarding a plane to Portland, Kobe Bryant explained how he paces himself through games. Against the Hornets, Bryant was able to hold off on attacking and entering Mamba strike mode until the fourth quarter. That game he scored 23 points in the final period. Against Portland was a different story.
"It really all depends on my team mates, honestly," Bryant started out to explain how he paces the game. "If they’re knocking down shots and the game’s in good balance, I can [sit back]. If we’re not and we’re brickin’, the game’s getting away from us, then I got to go a little earlier than I would like to, which expends a great deal of energy for me."
In Portland, the Lakers fell behind early, and this game was too important to wait for the team to get it together. Bryant scored 39 of his 47 points in the first three quarters in Wednesday night’s win. Then, he looked to Pau Gasol to finish the game, and the two-time champion came through for the team down the stretch.
"It’s something that we’ve done all along with Phil [Jackson], and it’s something that he’s done in Chicago with Michael [Jordan]," Bryant continued (explicit language). "You try to pace the game as much as possible. This way, your go-to guy has energy saved up in the fourth quarter. And it’s really as simple as that."
Safe to say, playing 36 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back and carrying the team offensively through three quarters, Bryant needed Gasol to be the go-to guy on Wednesday night.
The night before, Bryant smiled wryly and foreshadowed, "I know what he brings to the table. He’s 2010 Pau, for sure."
With three games to go, they look like the 2010 Lakers with one massive wrinkle: Dwight Howard. He provides emphatic blocks and thunderous throw-downs. They may be far from perfect, but the last two games, the Lakers have resembled the team most envisioned when this roster was put together last summer.
"I’m not worried about the summer," Bryant said. "What I’m trying to do is get us in the postseason where we start the [expletive] over. You know, you play that really bad video game where you’re just sucking it up and you just want to hit that reset button? Yea, get to the playoffs, hit the reset button and start over."
Bryant wrapped up, "We’ve been playing pretty well, but the start of the season was atrocious for us."