We saw a different Lakers team in Game 2. It is almost as though LA had to keep things interesting by squandering a game so they could revitalize themselves by playing with their backs against the wall. New Orleans was 28-13 at home this season, so going down 2-0 and heading out on the road was not an option. But, as we’ve seen in past playoffs, the Lakers came to play when they absolutely needed to, forcing the Hornets into 16 turnovers and a woeful 39 percent shooting, in Game 2. Compare that to Game 1, when NO shot 52 percent and committed just 3 TOs.
Right now Andrew Bynum is the second best center in the league behind Dwight Howard. He’s that good. He and Pau Gasol -- even more than Kobe -- are the keys to this team. Every offensive possession should be run through them because the balance of the Phil Jackson’s triangle offense is maintained. They are both gifted frontline scorers, but, perhaps more importantly, both are willing and talented passers. Because of their size and vision, both are adept at dishing from the high post or the block, a crucial element to properly executing the triangle offense.
It is precisely this passing and scoring ability that Kobe should utilize. Scorers are only made better by bigs who can pass. Just look at the Sacramento Kings model of the early 00s when Vlade Divac and Chris Webber were the two maestros. Bryant -- by consistently working off of Gasol and Bynum -- can become more of a playmaker, both as a scorer and facilitator. But, as we saw in Game 2, his offense simply isn’t as vital to the Lakers as it once was. This is not 2007, when LA needed extraordinary efforts from Kobe just to win a few games in the playoffs. The Lakers -- as they have been during their run of three consecutive Western Conference titles -- are really talented and really deep.
Lamar Odom, winner of NBA Sixth Man award, is having his best season as a pro. He and Bynum combined for 33 points last night on a hyper-efficient 16-23 shooting. When Gasol struggles, as he has thus far in the series, Odom is so incredibly versatile that he can make up the difference. And now, more than any other point in his career, he has become the ultra aggressive force everyone knew he could be.
If New Orleans -- or any team for that matter -- wants to double Bryant and force others to beat them, that’s just fine. But Kobe needs to understand that. He needs to understand that he doesn’t necessarily need to score 30 for the Lakers to win games. But the question is … will he?
Maybe he should consider this: When Kobe takes 25 shots or more this season, the Lakers are 9-9. When he takes 15 shots or less? ... Try 15-0, including Game 2’s 87-78 win to even up the series.