Kobe Bryant's performance at Dallas shows his need for more rest
The Lakers' 96-91 victory Wednesday over the Dallas Mavericks was hardly the kind of night Bryant has usually experienced this season. Most nights, he's draining shots with ease, taking over the end of the game and proving a torn ligament in his right wrist doesn't bother him.
Not this time.
Bryant posted a season-low 15 points on four-of-15 shooting, committed seven turnovers and hardly looked like a player you'd want carrying the offense. He's entitled to a bad game, of course. Bryant has led the league in scoring. He has carried an often dysfunctional offense on his back. Bryant has bought Lakers Coach Mike Brown some time to let his philosophies soak into the team without sacrificing enough wins to seriously jeopardize their playoff prospects.
But Bryant's performance against Dallas provided proof of a season-long problem Brown has yet to solve. Despite promises that Bryant would be limited to 33-35 minutes per game, the Lakers star remains fourth in the league in playing time (38.2), nearly four minutes more than last season.
Fortunately for the Lakers, they absorbed Bryant's poor night. The Lakers maintained their size advantage, with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol combining for 43 points. Lakers guard Derek Fisher suddenly was an effective outside shooter, dropping 15 points on a six-of-eight clip. Metta World Peace held Vince Carter to two second-half points. After the Lakers missed six consecutive free throws, including two from Bryant, Matt Barnes grabbed an offensive rebound with 27 seconds left and made two foul shots to secure the win. Even with Bryant's limitations, he still nailed a 25-foot three-pointer and threw two late-game lobs to Gasol and Bynum.
It's presumptuous, however, to think the Lakers can consistently replicate such a balanced effort. It's more likely that it reflected a motivation stemming from their recent frustrations with the front office and coaching staff. And that leaves the Lakers with a problem without a clear fix.
Brown has maintained he's gone against limiting Bryant's minutes simply because of the team's flimsy development. But he also held Bryant in double-digit losses to Miami and Phoenix this season. The longer Brown avoids addressing this problem, however, the more likely Bryant won't play at his best when it matters in the playoffs.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, drives past Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki during the first half of Wednesday's game. Credit: Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press / Feb. 22, 2012