Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center on December 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
On Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers lost their second straight game following Kobe Bryant’s return from a torn Achilles. Tuesday’s loss, however, was not on Bryant. He was arguably the Lakers’ best player.
Six Los Angeles Lakers scored in double figures, and the Black Mamba led all Lakers with 20 points. Most impressively, Bryant scored his 20 points on only 11 shot attempts and resembled the ageless player that graced the floor prior to the injury. After looking all of his 35 years on Sunday, Bryant turned the clock back with a spin move and dunk to get the night going.
Early in the night, Bryant took the ball in the post and did a quick spin move past P.J. Tucker before elevating and dunking the ball. In one moment, he showed that he could still dunk and he had not lost his quickness. Bryant would go on to drop in a layup, make strong cuts, and hit jump shots. He was not shooting in bulk, but the quality of his work looked significantly improved from only two nights earlier.
If he continues to improve at this rate, he may well score forty next week.
Another improvement was Bryant’s turnovers. On Sunday, he turned the ball over eight times and gave himself an “F” on the night for doing so. On Tuesday, he lowered that number to three turnovers and gave himself a “B.”
Even with Bryant playing well, the offense was not compromised by the return of the Black Mamba. Defense, however, was an issue. The Lakers were simply not playing with the defensive energy required to slow down Goran Dragic and the Phoenix Suns.
Dragic finished with 31 points, as the Lakers were unable to stop the Slovenian from getting in the lane. The Lakers allowed the Suns to shoot 52 percent from the field and score 114 points at Staples Center. Those types of numbers will not win too many games.
Leading up to Bryant’s return, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni hinted that the team would have some growing pains and an adjustment period. Well, the Lakers have lost two home games since he has returned, and the upcoming four-game road trip is not exactly a gift.
The Lakers will hit four cities in five nights, so it is difficult to predict when the Lakers will get their first win with the Mamba.