Kobe Bryant drove into the lane, hopped high above the crowd in the paint and heaved the ball with both hands to an open Derek Fisher for three — SWISH! Running backwards in transition, Derek turned his head over his right shoulder and pointed at Kobe. Their eyes still locked, Kobe lowered his head and pointed right back. That exchange of non-verbal communication from the Laker captains was as telling as the new Championship ring that Phil Jackson gets to sport this post-season. Those few seconds of interaction between Kobe and Fish say, “sometimes it will be easy, and sometimes it certainly won’t. But no matter what stands in our way, we will lead you there.”
For all the doubts and fears that the Lakers instilled in their loyal supporters this past season, it’s nice to be reminded of who is running the helm, and when Kobe and Derek play with as much energy and fervor as they did today, the rest of the team could only follow suit.
There have been many storylines surrounding this Lakers-Thunder series — from Phil’s supposed mind games, to the young ingénue versus the accomplished veteran, to finally being able to measure Ron Artest’s worth to this team — the largest elephant in the room was the effectiveness, or possible lack thereof, of Andrew Bynum who was, yet again, returning from injury.
In his post-game interview, Andrew was asked if he considered himself a veteran. He answered, “I don’t feel like a veteran yet. I’m trying to earn that title. That comes from more experience, it comes from being more of a leader out there, being more vocal. It comes from earning trust in these playoffs.”
With a double-double in his first game back since injuring his achilles, Andrew is well on his way to earning that veteran status. Against an Oklahoma City team who has no one to match against him, Andrew scored on patient post-moves that earned him easy dunks, one over Collison who pales in comparison to his abilities. Andrew also ran back in transition and positioned himself in prime spots to receive passes in the paint for high percentage shots. He collected four blocks, grabbed 12 rebounds (9 defensive) and in the end, he looked like someone who has been here before.