Written by: Suki Thind
No, there were no lobs to Amar’e Stoudemire from Steve Nash. And no, there was no Lamar Odom, Smush Parker, or Kwame Brown. But there was Kobe Bryant putting up big numbers against the Phoenix Suns en route to a 99-83 victory for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant scored a season high 48 points (and was the first player to break the 40 point mark this season) on 18-31 shooting from the field. He started off hot in the first quarter, exploding for 17 points with the much smaller Shannon Brown on him before picking his spots against the Suns’ best defender, Grant Hill.
Forward Pau Gasol also played a solid game with 16 points and 12 rebounds, as did Andrew Bynum with 12 and eight.
And even though this wasn’t 2006, Luke Walton played 26 minutes and came up big on several plays, most notably grabbing five offensive rebounds. The Lakers also had a strong contribution from Steve Blake, who dished out eight assists.
As for the Suns, Steve Nash managed 13 points and eight assists while Channing Frye (17 points on 7-9 shooting) and Marcin Gortat (16 points, 12 rebounds) proved to be the Suns’ best options against the Lakers. Former Laker Shannon Brown had 11 points, while the 39 year-old Hill managed only five points on 1-12 shooting.
But the real story of the night was Kobe Bryant. Spinning, fading, shooting, and scoring. His three point woes still continue, as he is shooting under 20 percent this season thus far, but his midrange game is prevailing.
After spending the duration of a recent team flight watching film with head coach Mike Brown, it appears that the two have figured out where to get Kobe the ball in the new offensive system. Perhaps the wrist is bothering Kobe from long distance, but the surgically repaired knee and ankle are proving to have been highly beneficial.
Bryant also 13 free throws, and is averaging eight free throws per game, a mark he hasn’t surpassed since the 2007-2008 season in which he was league MVP. This proves to be a very good sign, as Kobe is being aggressive. Maybe he’s not getting to the basket like he used to — although he had two spectacular dunks in this game — but this proves his ability to elevate on his picture perfect jump shot instead of relying on multiple pump fakes as he was forced to do last year.
This should give the Lakers something to be encouraged by. Perhaps his long distance shooting percentage will suffer this year due to the wrist injury, but his scoring won’t. The encouraging fact is that he’s staying aggressive, which is a testament to a healthy knee.
He’s looking strong, he’s looking explosive, and he’s looking young. Scoring 48 points is something Lakers’ fans have been accustomed to seeing from Kobe, but to see it now, in a time of doubt and uncertainty, is something to get excited about. The Black Mamba always has something to prove, and it seems he has more to prove this year than ever before.
But it appears that Bryant, as well as the Lakers, are up to the challenge.