Saturday, March 31, 2007

Lakers have me worried

That was some performance by Kobe Bryant last night.

He single-handedly brought the Lakers back from the dead against Houston with an incredible scoring display to end regulation. When it was all said and done though, it was yet another defeat for the Lakers.

Kobe's recent scoring outbursts have been a ton of fun to watch, and no one appreciates his talent more than people like me who watch him night in and night out. However, this recent run also has me very concerned for the Lakers postseason chances.

L.A. was the surprise team of the first half of this season because everyone else was contributing on a nightly basis. There were few instances where Bryant had to take a "me vs. them" shooting attitude, and the Lakers succeeded because of it. The same point can be made about last season's playoff series with Phoenix, at least the part where the Lakers surged to a 3-1 lead.

So, the fact that Bryant needs to score 50+ for the Lakers to win lately leads me to predict playoff doom unless everyone else steps it up to help him. That's the problem, though, as I'm not sure the Lakers are healthy enough to help him. Lamar Odom is one bad fall or pull from really being in trouble with his shoulder. Kwame Brown can't jump because of his ankle. Luke Walton isn't the same guy he was before he got hurt. Mo Evans can't get on the floor because of fluid in his knee. Andrew Bynum seems to have hit a rookie wall, which is a problem since this is his second year.

Now, this shouldn't read like I'm killing everyone but Kobe. That's not my point. I fear that Bryant is seeing the walking wounded and assuming he has to kick it into scoring mode because no one else will. To a large extent, he's probably right. But Bryant took half of his team's shots last night (44 of 88) to get 53 points. No one else on the team had 10 field goal attempts. As a group, they are going to have to be more balanced than this to win a playoff series.

Never say never when you have someone like Kobe Bryant to bail you out of seemingly any situation, but unless everyone gets healthier and they find a good team dynamic, I'm no longer convinced this team can beat San Antonio. I was about two months ago.

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