Update 3:39 pm That voice you hear is Lee Corso saying “Not so fast my freinds…”
Kobe Bryant is now doubtful for the Lakers game against Golden State tonight. Kobe had a full practice with the team yesterday and everything looked good to go, but this morning his ankle had responded poorly. He will be evaluated again before the game. If Kobe does not play tonight, the Lakers are off until a Thursday night game against Boston.
11:16 am Kobe Bryant practiced without a limp on Monday. Andrew Bynum practiced as well and while his hip was sore afterwards he is a go for tonight against Golden State.
The Lakers are back at full strength. The question is, will they keep winning with defense? Yes, defense, that is how the Lakers won their last three games without that star pair.
It’s confusing to the eye, because the Lakers offense looked more fluid without Bynum and Bryant — without key guys who can create their own shot the Lakers relied far more on the triangle offense to get their looks. They also relied on Pau Gasol, who is maybe the best passing big man in the game, so other players were cutting and moving off the ball because they would get rewarded.
All that said, the Lakers offensive was worse without Bynum and Bryant in (as you should expect). The Lakers points per 100 possessions in its last two games were 101.1 (Utah) and 107.4 (San Antonio), both below their season average of 109.4 (which is well off last year).
What was better was the Lakers defense. Without Bryant on the wing and Bynum in the paint, the Lakers focused better on team defense. The Lakers in their last two games gave up 85.3 (Utah), and 94.7 (San Antonio) points per 100 possessions. On the season, the Lakers give up 102.2 points per 100 possessions, and that is second best in the NBA.
If the Lakers want to contend, if they want to beat the Cavaliers (or whoever represents the East in the Finals), they are going to have to do it with defense. And with Bryant and Bynum in the lineup.