LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant has had these kinds of games before. Certainly not often and not recently, but they're always memorable when he does.
Presumably, before any game, Bryant will have a point to prove once it starts and will do everything in his power to prove it the moment he steps onto the court. Maybe he heard that he shoots too much or maybe he read that someone wants the ball more, whatever the case may be.
For whatever reason, Bryant appeared to choose Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns to show what the Los Angeles Lakers would look like if he didn't shoot and the offense ran through Dwight Howard and others.
It's one thing to be the facilitator and look for the open man and take what the defense gives you, but it's another thing to pass up easy transition baskets to make cross-court passes as Bryant did time after time in the first half.
Bryant finished the first half Tuesday night without a single field-goal attempt for the first time since March 5, 2004, which was a game he left because of an injury within the first minute. You have to go all the way back to his rookie season for a time he has done that when he wasn't injured.
Entering the fourth quarter, Bryant was 0-for-4 from the field, which is the most attempts he has had in a game without a make since April 2001 against the New York Knicks.
Bryant finally made his first field goal with 2:10 left, after going 0-for-7 from the field, and finished with 4 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds and 8 turnovers. Luckily for the Lakers, that's all they needed from Bryant on Tuesday as they beat the Phoenix Suns, 91-85.
How it happened: It's a good question if you simply look at Bryant's stat line, but the truth is other players on the Lakers stepped up. Howard had 19 points and 18 rebounds, and Antawn Jamison came off the bench to put up 19 points and 10 rebounds.
What it means: It means the Lakers are still mathematically alive in the playoff picture, as coach Mike D'Antoni likes to say sometimes, and did not drop another heartbreaker to the 17-36 Suns. The Lakers have had some bad losses this season but a loss to the Suns in a game D'Antoni called a "playoff game" might have been a season killer.
Hits: Aside from the aforementioned Howard and Jamison, Metta World Peace had 17 points and eight rebounds, Earl Clark put up 11 points and four rebounds and Steve Nash came up big at the end to gave the Lakers 10 points and eight assists.
Misses: Bryant finishing the game going 1-for-8 from the field with eight turnovers is pretty bad.
Stat of the night: You hate to belabor the point but considering how rare it was, it deserves repeating that with nearly two minutes left in a game in which he played 36 minutes, Bryant had not made a single shot and didn't even attempt one in the first half. His four points was his lowest scoring total for a game in which he has played at least 30 minutes.
What's next: The Lakers will play the Los Angeles Clippers in a Lakers home game on Thursday night in what will be their final game before All-Star Weekend. This has been a nightmarish first half of the season for the Lakers but a win over their in-building rival would go a long way toward putting them on the right track going into home stretch of the season.