In a season that zipped by the Lakers find themselves with three games left fighting to hold onto the third seed in the Western Conference. They are half a game ahead of the Clippers, and depending on how they finish they will either face Dallas, Memphis or Denver in the first round of the playoffs.
The team has been playing well lately and their 5-2 record without Kobe has caught the attention of the league. The Lakers adjusted to Kobe’s absence; they bonded as a team in a way they might not have had he not sat out. While Kobe coached from the sidelines, players like Matt Barnes, Metta World Peace, and Pau Gasol stepped up to the challenge. With momentum on the Lakers side, the possible return of Bryant to tonight’s game could not come at a better time.
In the remaining games the Lakers face San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Sacramento. All three will prove to be a challenge. The Spurs are always a tough battle, but hopefully the Lakers will come out seeking revenge after the embarrassing loss on Tuesday. The Lakers have yet to beat Oklahoma City this year. And a team like Sacramento, who has nothing to lose, could be a potential risk. While it’s been fun and exciting without Bryant on the court, it’s time for Kobe to come back and help lead his team into the playoffs.
But this break has been good for Kobe. A pair of fresh legs and the opportunity to nurse his numerous injuries is much deserved. In this jam-packed season any spare rest helps. The nearly ten days Bryant sat out has been a blessing in disguise for the Lakers for more than one reason. Not only has Bryant been able to rest, but his absence has also made it clear that the Lakers play best when running their offense through Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. So Kobe should look should look to average 20 field goal attempts like he did in the 2008-2009-championship season. Not the 23 field goal attempts he averages now. After all, less shooting from Bryant means more touches to the big guys down low which is what the Lakers want heading into the playoffs.
The playoffs will start in less than 10 days, and this roller coaster ride of a season has come a long way. From heavy scrutiny and doubt about the teams state at the beginning of the year, to a serious chance at a title run, the playoffs will be a wild ride. But the Lakers always keep things interesting. When you think they are down and out, they rise to the challenge. They’re resilient and adjust to losing players like Derek Fisher, who helped lead them for many seasons. If their superstar is hurt, they surprise everyone and show the world a different side of the team. All is smooth sailing for these Lakers at the moment, and as the excitement of playoff basketball approaches that is all any fan can ask for.