So far this season, Kobe Bryant has won 7 games for the Lakers with a game winning shot. These theatrical shots include fade away bankers, back down jumpers and 3 point swishes; most importantly a 15 footer to beat the Boston Celtics 90-89.
Trusting Kobe to finish off games against solid playoff threats is acceptable. Surviving in Dallas against a tough Mavericks team is a blessing; any margin of victory will do for the Lakers. And coming into the game at Boston, most people predicted a tight game, and so what if Kobe had to carry the team… that’s what he does.
However, what does concern many Laker fans is the fact that five of the seven game winners by Kobe, came against struggle and non-playoff teams.
Miami Heat were yet to find their groove early on in the season but the Lakers barely pulled the win out.
Milwaukee Bucks had been a disappointment at that point of the season with a 11-12 record, but the Lakers were still forced into overtime before Kobe bailed us out.
Sacramento Kings had no chance in playing in April, however still pushed the Lakers to their limits, and who else had to save us from humiliation — Kobe.
Memphis Grizzlies came into the February 23th game with a 28-28 record, while the Lakers had a 43-14 record. Nevertheless, the Lakers did not show any intensity for the first three quarters and had to rely on Kobe once again to win the game.
The most recent game winner came on March 9th versus the struggling Toronto Raptors who had lost 5 of their last 6 games. The Lakers were suppose to cruise into a victory, right? Wrong. Once again, no effort was shown for three quarters and the Lakers let the Raptors hang around up until the final seconds, when Kobe saved his team one more time.
So, can’t the Lakers not close out these weak teams early, and why do they trust Kobe the come to the rescue every time?
Although Kobe has proven to be cold-blooded when it comes to crunch time, Kobe is not perfect and may sometimes miss the game winner.
Twice this season, the Lakers showed a lack of intensity and focus throughout the game, and that self confidence turned out to be devastating. The opponent expanded their lead and the momentum never returned to the Lakers
The Charlotte Bobcats’ roster consists of only one all-star while the Lakers have five legitimate ones. But on March 5th, the Bobcats looked like the defending Champions, while our Lakers played like a D-League squad. As per usual, the Lakers did not show up for three quarter as they were outscored by nine in the second and six in the third. A late fourth quarter push was not enough and the Bobcats beat the Laker by 15; 98-83.
A similar story occurred on January 8th versus the Portland Trailblazers, a lackluster defense and poor offensive execution left the Lakers a big hole to dig themselves out of; the deficit was too big and the Blazers cruised to a 107-98 victory.
These two games show how the talent of the Lakers is not shown until the fourth quarter and this style of play could be disastrous. On the days the Lakers do show effort early in the game, the intensity level eventually drops and opponent come roaring back.
Take Sunday’s game against the Washing Wizards as an example; the Lakers were up 59-33 at the half. However, the Lakers began fooling around all of a sudden the Wizards outscore the Lakers 32-17 in the fourth.
Luckily, the Lakers prevailed with a win on Noche Latina, but a concern emerges; are the Lakers to reliant on Kobe Bryant? Could this also result in an early departure come playoff time?
It is clear that the Lakers are one of the most talented teams in the NBA, with the best starting five and an All-Star off the bench. So why aren’t the Lakers blowing out sub 40 win teams? Over confidence has been the weak point for the Lakers all season long, and that could be their Achilles’ heel, since playoff teams can easily take advantage.
If this trend for continues I can not promise a late June ABC game featuring the Lakers. If Kobe Bryant is the only Laker showing any passion for the game and the others are relying on him to carry them to a victory, the only way we can reach a basketball game in mid-June is with the purchase of a ticket.