LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant still believes he can score whenever he wants too. Ask him about scoring 40 or more points in a game as he did Sunday against the Boston Celtics and he'll simple shrug his shoulders and give you a crooked look as if to say, "Please, I can do that in my sleep."
That may be the case but the reason Bryant has only done it twice this season is he knows the Lakers can't win when he goes off like that. The Lakers are 0-2 when Bryant scores 40 or more points this season. They lost to the Indiana Pacers Nov. 28 when he scored 41 and were beaten by the Celtics 109-96 on Sunday when he again dropped 41 points.
It wasn't Bryant's fault though. He really had no choice. None of the other starters on the Lakers wanted to do much else other than watch Bryant go to work. Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Derek Fisher were a combined 10-for-38 for 31 points and were content letting Bryant shoot the ball instead of getting involved themselves.
"I didn't think anybody else wanted the ball," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I think they backed off. I think they wanted to let Kobe [play]. He seemed to be the guy who had the hot hand. They wanted to just give him a lot of space instead of our offense flowing into what we do."
After the game as Bryant, wearing a black robe and soaking his feet in a bucket of water, stared down at the carpet in the Lakers locker room as he talked about his performance and the Lakers' lack of intensity in the game. While the storyline might be the Lakers losing despite his scoring outburst, he realizes the Lakers won't be able to win until they first learn to defend.
"We gave them too many easy looks," Bryant said of the Celtics, who shot 60.3% from the field. "They executed very well they were able to any shot they wanted to. We had mental lapses defensively."
Bryant, who hit 16-of-29 shots, gave the Lakers an "F" on defense and said the team "blew too many assignments and made too many mistakes."
Not only have the Lakers struggled against bad teams at home, losing to the likes of Indiana, Memphis, Milwaukee and Sacramento, but they've know been blown out at home by Miami and Boston, the two teams they will likely see if they are lucky enough to make it to their fourth straight NBA Finals.
"I think guys are upset because we're not playing very well against these top teams," Bryant said. "They should be. So we need to elevate our level and we need to get better if we are to defend our throne. There's no other option but that. You just need to continue to work at it and work at it until you're at that championship level."
Arash Markazi is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.