Caught in the Web: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant returns without a hitch
This time, the scenario played out much differently.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant nailed his sixth game winner of the season Tuesday and lifted the team to a 99-98 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, something the Lakers couldn't do earlier this month against Memphis when Ron Artest's game-winning attempt hit off the rim.
In the latest effort, Bryant had 32 points on 13 of 19 shooting along with seven rebounds and six assists, a balanced approach that took a backseat earlier this month as Bryant eclipsed Jerry West as the franchise's all-time leading scorer.
Though he missed a few key plays at the end, Lakers forward Pau Gasol had a dependable 22 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, a performance that led to a much brighter mood than when he lamented earlier this month about a lack of touches.
And the aftermath will certainly be more enjoyable for the Lakers (43-14). They are in closer contention with Cleveland (44-14) for the league's best record, Bryant appeared as if the ankle injury didn't bother him and he continued to produce game winners, a feat that never ceases to amaze the Riverside Press Enterprise's Gregg Patton. And don't forget, Lakers fans are eager to wax nostalgia on what Bryant provided in his first game back.
We'll see if that momentum carries over as the Lakers have a quick turnaround, with the second game of a back-to-back tonight at Dallas. But at least according to ESPN Los Angeles' John Ireland, that debate involving how Bryant and his teammates would adjust to his return is now closed. ESPN's Tim Legler also says Bryant's latest heroics serve as a reminder for the rest of the league to watch out.
More Lakers links (after the jump)
--Bryant's game-winning shot gave Memphis its fifth consecutive loss at home. Grizzlies guard Rudy Gay told the Commercial Appeal's Ronald Tillery it was almost inevitable the shot would be good. Said Gay: "There's not much you can do."
--Bryant's new shoes are coming out this spring, but Ball Don't Lie's Trey Kerby says the newest kicks aren't worth your money.
--Dime Magazine has a few Lakers on their top 10 list of the league's toughest players.
--Dallas' acquistion of Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood have led some to think the Mavericks could be a Western Conference contender. That's why the Mavericks feel they have a lot to prove tonight against the Lakers, wrote the Dallas' Morning News' Eddie Sefko. Said Dallas guard Jason Kidd about the Lakers: ""At the end of the day, if you can't get past them, you're not going anywhere."
--The Dallas Morning News' Todd Davis reminds everyone the Mavs have pulled off a string of wins against the Lakers in previous seasons.
Tweet of the Day: "Dont get me wrong kobe is great but not when he play me -- JR_Swish (Denver Nuggets guard J.R. Smith)
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Photo: Derek Fisher shows his appreciation for Kobe Bryant's effort -- which included 32 points and the game-winning basket -- in the Lakers' 99-98 victory Tuesday at Memphis. The Grizzlies' Zach Randolph, left, finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds. Credit: Mike Brown/EPA.