Lakers' 95-77 victory over Milwaukee Bucks full of many plot points
Flash back to a conversation Lakers Coach Phil Jackson had with Jordan Farmar during the 2007 NBA playoffs, and the advice he gave to him at that time regarding Kobe Bryant would still be applicable to this season.
"I always tell the players they have to be strong willed enough to turn him down when he demands the ball and something else better is going on the other side of the court," Jackson said of Bryant. "Until they develop that strength, we’re not going to bail him out."
Except that's exactly what happened Sunday in the Lakers' 95-77 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. No, Mamba's teammates didn't stage an intervention. But they bailed Bryant out in another way, something the Lakers struggled to do in their past two games during Mamba's shooting slump.
Though Bryant scored a season-low 12 points on four of 21 shooting, he at least acknowledged Sunday that his month-long right index finger has worsened, a fact that was painfully obvious for both him and his fans.
"I tried to play with a splint off," Bryant said. "I put it back off and then I put it back on in the second half. I'm just trying to get a little bit more flexibility back. My finger felt pretty good. So we tried to go without the splint. It’s just not strong enough yet."
In the meantime, the Lakers' play without their star performer was strong enough, especially a good sign considering Pau Gasol's revelation that he felt pain on Saturday after running on a treadmill and that his return date from his left hamstring injury remains uncertain.
What's certain is this - the Lakers at least had others pick up the slack.
Center Andrew Bynum had 17 points and a career-high 18 rebounds on the same day a New York Post report came out that said the Lakers were hoping to trade him for Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh. For someone who says his game thrives when he gets touches, Bynum definitely proved that to be the case against Milwaukee, capping his third consecutive double double after going 23 games in a row without even one. But he says he didn't set out for a good performance because his name was being circulated in the trade rumor mill,
"I don't really care," Bynum said. "I love playing basketball. I'll play this game anywhere. I’m always mentioned. I think it’s a good thing."
Laker fans also thought Shannon Brown was a good thing, who led the Lakers with 19 points off the bench on eight of 12 shooting. He lived up to the billing that earned him the website, letshannondunk.com. The Lakers also let him shoot with Brown making a half-court heave to end the third quarter. They also let him block with Brown making back-to-back stuffs against Luke Ridnour and Brandon Jennings. Backup guard Jordan Farmar, who chipped in with 17 points, says this game was a turning point for the reserves, though Jackson didn't quite agree.
"I definitely think we’ve all developed," Farmar said. "It’s just about having an opportunity to be successful. Make plays and make reads and be actually part of the game. It’s the only way you can have an opportunity to contribute."
Ron Artest was one who didn't contribute, however. He collided with Michael Redd in the first quarter and then left for good in the third after Jackson said he complained of dizziness. Artest initially didn't say that was the case saying, "I was just getting a breather."
Fortunately for the Lakers, there was Bynum, Brown and Farmar to give the same to Bryant.
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Photo: Bucks guard Carlos Delfino knocks the ball from the grasp of Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in the first half Sunday. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times