With just over three minutes left in the game, Kobe Bryant stood at the free throw line and scored his last two points of the night, and what appears to be, the season. He gathered himself for a few seconds until a foul was committed so he could sub out of the game. He turned around slowly, limped towards the bench as Metta World Peace checked in. Bryant was next met by Robert Sacre, on whose arm he held for support along with trainer, Gary Vitti, and the three headed to the locker room.
In the final minutes that followed, the Lakers were without their fearless, relentless leader. They did what Bryant would have wanted them to do – finish fighting. MWP drew a foul and hit both of his free throws. Pau Gasol scored on a layup. Dwight Howard got a dunk. Steve Blake hit another pair of free throws, followed by Howard’s final freebie which sealed the victory. With this 118-116 win, the Lakers remain in the 8th seed despite the Utah Jazz’s win over Minnesota Timberwolves, but at what cost has this one victory been bought?
Kobe Bryant – Putting aside his injury for this point, Bryant played another hell of a game. 34 points, five rebounds, four assists and 45 minutes of playing time. It appeared he was planning another all-gamer, until he was forced to leave the floor. But before he checked out, he scored eight consecutive points – back-to-back three pointers and two free throws.
Pau Gasol – It was a triple-double night for the big Spaniard, who has really flourished in these past few games. 26 points on 9-13, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. If any one player will suffer the absence of Kobe Bryant, it’s Gasol. Though the two are team co-captains, Bryant has been the undeniable and unconditional supporter of the other. If Gasol has an opportunity to do anything with whatever is left of this season for him and the team, while Bryant is recovering, it’s to prove whether or not he can be as influential of a leader as Bryant is and lead this team on the floor and in the locker room.
Dwight Howard – The seven measly rebounds aside, Howard put in 28 points on 7-8 from the field and 14-22 from the free throw line. Howard was actually an uber consistent 13-16 from the charity stripe through three quarters. He went only 1-6 in the final 12 minutes, but he made the one that counted the most – the last point in the game that gave the home team a two-point advantage.
Steve Blake – 14 points on 4-9 from the field (all from downtown) and a perfect 2-2 from the free throw line. Blake has done a solid job starting in place of Steve Nash. Unfortunately, the bench is suffering from his absence.
Steph Curry – My word – 47 points on 17-31 from the field, 9-15 from downtown (!), six rebounds, nine assists and three steals. Just another day at the office for the young Warrior.
Bench – Just 10 points between Jodie Meeks and MWP and 0-4 from Antawn Jamison.
Rebounding – The leading rebounder in the NBA (Dwight Howard) should have some answers for the best defensive rebounding team in the league (the Warriors), right? Howard only grabbed seven rebounds in 38 minutes of playing time. He did run into some early foul trouble, but that shouldn’t have affected his ability to rebound the ball.
Defense – Steph Curry scored 32 of his 47 points in the first half, and when the Lakers paid more attention to him, then Klay Thompson went off for 17 points in the second half. For whatever reason, they were constantly left wide open, as if being dared to shoot, which they gladly did. Blake often left Curry and Thompson to help defend another, and the Warriors backcourt made him and the Lakers pay.
Kobe’s Injury – First, he banged knees with Festus Ezel, fell to the ground and grabbed his left knee. Next, Bryant drove to the hoop and when he landed, appeared to have hurt his foot. Lastly, he was dribbling around Harrison Barnes and suddenly fell. As he sat on the floor, he loosened his left shoe and grabbed the back of his ankle. Our worst nightmare as Laker fans has finally been realized – a season-ending injury to Kobe Bryant. His locker room interview after the game showed a very human side of Bryant, as he explained the severity of his injury, being role models for his daughters, as well as sitting on the sidelines and supporting/coaching his teammates;. “I’m going to be there still.” He said, “ I can’t be with them out there on the floor but I can use my intellect to try and break down film.” Isn’t it just like Kobe Bryant to be thinking of alternative plans already?
There isn’t much else to say after tonight’s game. You’re happy the Lakers won, but can’t find much of a silver lining when Kobe Bryant needs surgery and will miss the rest of this season and perhaps part of the next season. But as we’ve known for many years, Bryant is one of the most dedicated athletes when it comes to his body and this injury is certainly no exception. His recovery is not a question of “How?? It’s a question of when, and based on Bryant’s post-game interview, he is more than up for this new challenge. #countonkobe #prayforkobe.