Isn’t Kobe supposed to be old, battered, and incapable of dominating a game from start to finish?
To the Mamba’s dear critics, I urge you, keep hating, it will only make him stronger.
You really couldn’t have asked for a better start to the series for Kobe as we all watched him use and abuse the Jazz for a strong 31 points on 12 of 19 from the field. Yes, you read correctly, he shot a scorching 63% starting 5 for 5 in the first quarter, his highest shooting percentage in…well, too long.
Anyone still question the Black Mamba’s ability to take a game over and score 11 points in the last four minutes with the victory up for grabs?
As my friends were asking me what I thought about Kobe’s health and unimpressive efficiency from the field before the Jazz series, I responded by suggesting that there’s nothing to really worry about with him.
I’ve always marveled at the Mamba’s ability to pace himself throughout the season and really take care of his body even during games. I don’t doubt the idea that he was essentially doing exactly that in six games against OKC because he knows he only has a certain amount of monster games left in him this year.
Even so, I do look for Kobe to be very aggressive for the rest of the series and I’m sure he salivates every time he gets an isolation against any defender Jerry Sloan throws his way because it basically doesn’t matter who checks him. However, don’t expect it to be all about scoring, but also about making the right plays off our bread and butter, the high pick and roll with Pau.
Speaking of Pau, I’ve been meaning to really give him his due respect and props because he’s been the most consistent Laker thus far in the playoffs. Going into Game 1, he was averaging 18 points a game, 12.2 boards, 1.3 blocks and had 25 pts, 12 rbs, 5 blks on Sunday alone. As Stuart Scott highlighted on Sportscenter last night, Pau is the first Laker to put up those kind of numbers in a single playoff game since Shaq Diesel was suiting up in purple and gold. Not too shabby.
I’m a little hesitant to say that Gasol has finally “gotten it” as far as playing with gritty toughness because he hasn’t had to face legit big men yet in the playoffs, but he’s at least dominating the post and appropriately exploiting his advantage in size and skill. Pau is scoring efficiently and obviously coming through in the clutch as well like he did in Game 6 against OKC.
As our editor Daniel said in his Batman vs. Superman editorial, Kobe is the Dark Knight who has the ability to save the day when the situation calls for it, but he also needs a reliable partner to do some damage of his own.
Pau is the perfect player to thrive in that role and he’s clearly the best superstar to compliment Kobe’s polarizing game. Boozer clearly cannot guard him on the block as well so I hope the team will keep feeding him and not fall in love with jumpers.
With Kobe playing arguably the most unselfish and all-around basketball of his career and Pau administering punishment down low, our dynamic duo looks primed to take LA back to the NBA Finals and win once more.