LOS ANGELES — This was just the beginning for Kobe Bryant during Friday night’s thrilling comeback win in overtime against the Raptors.
With the Lakers trailing by double digits for most of the game to this point, Bryant took it upon himself to begin to get things turned around.
Late in the third quarter, after he hit two three-pointers on consecutive possessions, Bryant missed the third, but charged in to try to go after the rebound. Rudy Gay was the one who ended up with the ball, but Bryant stuck with the play and came up with the steal.
After briefly resetting behind the three-point line, he dribbled left, and Gay tried to reach from behind, but Bryant blew past him into the lane for an emphatic two-handed slam that brought the crowd to its feet.
Again, this was only the beginning. But from the standpoint of energizing Bryant’s teammates, it had to start somewhere.
TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men
Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star break.
Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.
The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.