Following two separate ankle injuries, Jeremy Lin finally returned to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns. However, Lakers’ coach Byron Scott managed to temper expectations by announcing that Lin would not start ahead of the preseason encounter in Anaheim.
Kobe Bryant, who has consistently been the Lakers’ best player in the preseason, got off to a slow start. Bryant was held scoreless after the first quarter and only managed one made basket out of seven shot attempts in the first quarter.
However, the Lakers did not fall apart with their superstar struggling. In a positive sign for the purple and gold, Bryant’s Lakers’ teammates picked up the slack. Jordan Hill, in particular, started the game sharp and finished with a team-high 10 points at halftime.
To start the second half, though, Bryant took it upon himself to end his shooting slump. He promptly scored the Lakers’ first four baskets of the half. With Bryant establishing and the game going back-and-forth, the fourth quarter set up perfectly for Lin to make his mark.
In the fourth quarter, Lin took over, briefly.
Lin played all but the final 11.5 seconds of the fourth quarter and displayed the skillset that had the NBA going “Linsane” a couple years earlier. He created shots for teammates, attacked the rim, hit a three-pointer and rebounded with ease. In the fourth quarter, Lin tabbed 11 points, two rebounds and two assists.
The point guard brought the crowd to life, and only one man could trump Lin's excitement: no. 24.
Bryant hit his patented turnaround fadeaway jump shot. Then, he hit the same shot again. And Again. When he tried to hit the same shot for the fourth time in a row, the Suns fouled Bryant, who went to the free throw line and promptly knocked down two free throws.
The Lakers held a three-point lead with about a dozen seconds remaining, but a couple errors would change the game. First, Lin committed a foul that disqualified him from the game. After a flurry of missed free throws on both ends, a Suns' put-back at the buzzer sent the game into overtime.
In the extra period, Bryant continued to hit big shots, but his minutes were adding up. Without hesitating, Scott pulled Bryant in a close game in overtime. The 36-year-old had already logged nearly 34 minutes, and this was a preseason game, after all. He finished with 27 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, despite the cold start to the night.
Wesley Johnson, who appeared to have greatly improved his offensive game due to workouts with Bryant, hit a couple big shots in the extra period. However, the Lakers’ overtime rally would fall short, and the Suns walked away with the 114-108 victory in Anaheim.
Considering Bryant was watching from the sidelines at the end of the overtime period, the result clearly did not matter. What did matter was that the both Lin and Bryant performed at a high level, and the Lakers' defense was able to get stops.