Kobe's no Von, but he's pretty good in his own right
The Houston Rockets are down Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest, Yao Ming is a great player with a fairly meat and potatoes style and the Lakers are working with a revolving short roster themselves. Sounds like the perfect setup for an evening with the spotlight firmly held by Kobe Bryant, right? Well, not quite.
The 105-100 win over the Houston Rockets provided more evidence as to why The Mamba is often summoned to take a curtain call at the end of a show, but as for the opening act material, Bryant found himself upstaged. And by a familiar face, one of legendary status on this particular blog. Former Laker rook Von Wafer. Von hit the floor sporting a Mohawk and a very hot hand, racking the game's first pair of points and barely slowing down from there. A career-high 23 points and for the game's majority, an upstaging of the future Hall of Famer he used to provide third string relief. Early in the game, Kobe and the bucket were anything but simpatico. 13-32 shooting entered into the box score, but there was definitely some "best" saved for last, and it sure did come in handy.
With 27 ticks remaining, Kobe ignored Shane Battier's obstructing hand to hit a three and put his boys up by a pair, capping a thirteen point fourth quarter. That triumphant finish didn't appear in the cards for Kobe during most of the night, but as Phil Jackson noted afterward, necessity is often the mother of invention.
Before those heroics, the game was mostly about keeping things tight. Defensive mistakes were countered by limiting the turnovers to seven, which prevented even further damage. Pau Gasol struggled to score and Andrew Bynum dealt with foul trouble, but the Lakers got a brilliant night from Trevor Ariza (6-7 shooting for 14 points, plus 5 boards, three assists, a steal and a lot of havoc) and an emotional boost from Lamar Odom, who played through some pain to help his shorthanded squad. Gritting and bearing it is nothing new for LO (Think back to his busted shoulder/knee tendinitis 2007 playoffs against Phoenix), nor anything he plans to ever trumpet himself over.
"What the (expletive)," Odom said afterward, still sitting in front of his locker and wearing nothing but dried sweat, a towel and two icepacks after many of his teammates had already left the arena. "That's what being a sportsman is all about. You're going to play banged up sometimes."
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