It’s the question Lakers fans are asking Thursday — can Kobe Bryant sustain this?
He scored 48 against the Suns Tuesday and 40 against the Jazz and long-time nemesis Raja Bell on Wednesday. Kobe now leads the NBA averaging 30.3 points per game. He is using nearly 40 percent of the Lakers possessions when he is on the floor and is maintaining shooting percentages right at what he has done the past few years. What torn ligament in his wrist? His legs have a bounce and quickness we have not seen in years.
If you doubt Kobe can maintain this pace you do so at your own risk. He can. He’s driven by the motivation for an MVP or to prove the hoard of critics out there. And when Kobe is motivated like this he can accomplish just about anything on a basketball court. Look at what Kobe said after Wednesday’s game, via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.
“I scored back-to-back 40’s with a (bleeped)-up wrist,” Bryant said, his eyes still gleaming at the just-completed achievement. “What does it matter if it’s still (bleeped)-up in the playoffs?”
Kobe also says his wrist is healing, getting stronger. Sustainability is not the question Lakers fans should be asking. Rather…
Can the Lakers win long term with Kobe scoring like this?
The Lakers were struggling adapting to new coach Mike Brown’s ways and Kobe did what Kobe does — he took on more of the burden himself. He’s scoring at a rate we haven’t seen in five years, back when he had to cover for Smush Parker and Kwame Brown.
But now he has arguably the most skilled front line in the NBA to help carry that burden with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
Come the playoffs, teams that rely on one guy to score 40 a game don’t usually last long. They don’t win titles. Teams that get scoring from several sources — exploiting the best mismatch — do win. The Lakers can be that team. Right now they are not, and that’s fine against Phoenix and Utah in January. But if Bynum and Gasol are reduced to spectators for too long they will disengage.
If the Lakers are playing the same ball they are right now come March and April, that should worry Lakers fans. Because no doubt Kobe can sustain this pace that long if he wants to.
LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry
“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”
“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”
LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.
Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)
But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.
First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:
Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.
That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.
The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.
Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to the league:
Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.
But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.
Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.
Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)
Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.
The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.
It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.