Originally posted on In The Neutral Zone  |  Last updated 3/10/13
Kobe Bryant rises for a dunk to seal the Lakers’ victory over the Toronto Raptors Friday. (Via) If you couldn’t tell, Kobe Bryant’s amazing offense is an ongoing trend in Laker games. Friday’s 118-116 overtime victory over the Toronto Raptors on the Lakers’ home court in Staples Center was certainly no exception. Despite the Raptor’s poor record and the fact that they won’t make the playoffs this season, the Lakers could not seem to catch up or prevent them from scoring in the first three and a half quarters of the game. But in the final moments of regulation, Kobe Bryant picked the Lakers up with three shocking 3-pointers that tied the game and forced overtime. And again in overtime, with sixteen seconds left on the clock, Bryant evaded two Raptor defenders and drove down the lane for a game-winning dunk. Lately Bryant’s play has been more outstanding than usual. In each of his last two games, Kobe has scored over 40 points and dished out 12 assists. Kobe’s last two games beg a comparison to Michael Jordan, who was the last player to score over 40 points and have 10 assists or more in two consecutive games in 1989. Points and assists usually don’t go together. Simply put, if a player scores more, he tends to passes less and vice versa, but Kobe at times seemingly defies logic and patterns. Bryant has changed his style a few times this season with different types of consistent streaks. In three consecutive home games in late January versus the Jazz, Thunder, and the Hornets, Kobe had at least 11 assists and at least 8 rebounds — two highly unusual stats for Bryant. And throughout January, Kobe averaged 33.8 points per game, consistently scoring over 30 points in 12 of 14 games. To say that Bryant has had an odd season is somewhat of an understatement. He has had 6 games this season scoring over 40 points and 11 games where he’s scored less than 20 points. Strangely, in the 6 games where he’s scored more than 40 points the Lakers have a 3-3 record — though perhaps we should note that those 3 losses happened in 2012 before the team found any sort of winning traction. And in the games where Kobe scores less than 20 points, the Lakers have a record of 8-11. To draw a hard conclusion about a correlation between the Lakers’ winning and Kobe’s reduced role as a scorer is somewhat of a reach. However — and this is obvious — it is clear that when Lakers other than Kobe score more, the Lakers tend to win. And that may have an impact on Kobe’s assist numbers. When his teammates score, Kobe’s passes, which are not recorded, turn into assists. So maybe the perception of Kobe suddenly blossoming into an assist-machine is somewhat overblown. Whatever the case, Kobe has been magnificent this season, giving us all multiple reasons why he is one of the best players of all time. But it’s wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops for Kobe on Friday night. Kobe also acknowledged that he turned the ball over far too many times (9), likely leading to the Lakers playing from behind for much of the game. Indeed, turnovers are one of the Lakers’ problem areas that lead to opponent fast break points — the Lakers’ biggest weakness. But the fact that Kobe recognizes that turnovers are a big problem and that he wants to reduce his speaks volumes about his leadership and his high standards for his own play. With the Utah Jazz’s Saturday 113-84 loss to the Knicks, the Lakers are now tied for the 8th seed in the western conference. If the Lakers win Sunday at home versus the Chicago Bulls, a game that offers an opportunity for the Lakers to play strong defensive basketball throughout the entire game — something they’ve only managed to do a handful of times this season — they will have sole custody of the 8th seed in the west by half a game. And with the Warriors and Rockets both falling fast, the Lakers, with a few wins, could perhaps sneak into the 6th seed.  
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