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Like Bruce Dickinson needs cowbell, the Lakers need balance

From ESPN Stats and Information:

On Tuesday, [Kobe] Bryant scored 29 points but it took him 25 shots to get there in a 98-96 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. During the Lakers current three-game losing streak, Bryant has attempted at least 20 shots in each game and has averaged 26.3 FGA per game. This season, the Lakers are 2-3 when Bryant attempts at least 25 shots in a game, compared to 11-2 when he attempts fewer than 25 shots. Look even deeper and you will see that all five of the Lakers losses have come when Bryant has at least 20 shots. When Bryant attempts fewer than 20 shots, the Lakers are 7-0.

Statistics, like Smiling Faces, tell lies. They can be half-baked, misleading, and incomplete. Certainly the ones above aren't wholly cut and dried, but it does reinforce what has become very clear about the Lakers in two title seasons: They're better when they get balance.

The question really isn't one of shots, but touches and flow. Focusing simply on shot totals misses the point. Under the right circumstances, Kobe could take 25 shots and the Lakers could thrive. What matters is how he gets them, not just the number he launches. The problem Tuesday in Memphis wasn't that Kobe took 25 shots -- he could have taken 22, 23, or 27 and the Lakers would have been in just as much trouble -- but that he dominated the ball to an extent that sucked much of the movement (ball and player) out of the offense.

It's not that the Lakers can't win playing the way they did yesterday -- they can, it's just much harder because so much of the team's margin for error is tied up in one player. I've never had an opposing scout or coach tell me otherwise -- the Lakers are less dangerous when it's "Kobe or bust." (In a related note, playing like he did Tuesday makes it harder for Kobe to be successful on an individual level, as well, because he's easier to defend.) Conversely, it's not impossible for them to lose with better balance and distribution, it's just a lot less likely.

Most nights over the last three seasons, Kobe has been in tune with what the Lakers need in this regard. In Memphis, he wasn't.