The Los Angeles Lakers' meltdown in Sacramento, which led to an atrocious 118-109 loss in OT on Thursday, raises at least two questions whose answers will say a lot about how this season plays out for the Forum Blue and Gold. (That's purple and yellow, for those who don't remember Chick Hearn and the Fabulous Forum.)
Bryant, Odom seem out of sync
Q1: Is Kobe Bryant mortal after all? Or, to ask that another way, do the powers that allow him to make insane shots down the stretch in game after game sometimes get overridden by strange powers that force him to take even more insane shots that have little chance of going in the hole?
Q2: Will we start hearing anew about a Lamar Odom-Kobe Bryant rift?
Let's take Q2 first.
Lamar Odom says all the right things publicly about Kobe Bryant. He marvels at Kobe's talents and says he has no problem living in Kobe's shadow.
But it's sure hard to take all that at face value. The two men seem to be in their own orbit on the court. They rarely interact, and often don't even seem to be playing the same game.
The recent reports of an argument (or, according to some reports, an altercation) between them only reinforce the impression around the league that they really don't care much for each other. Conflicting reports about Odom's potential availability in a Ron Artest deal -- or other trades -- cast further doubt on their relationship.
But for one shining moment tonight, it looked as though there might be a breakthrough. With the Lakers up two, and about 40 seconds remaining in regulation, Kobe drove right and fired a pass out to Odom at the top of the key, who stroked a 3 in perfect rhythm. Lakers up five, Bryant and Odom happy, all's well.
Just as quickly, though, Odom made two mistakes that annoyed Bryant. (This was obvious. And that's another way Bryant resembles Michael Jordan -- he lets his annoyance at his teammates come through loud and clear on the court.)
First, Odom inexplicably drove the lane, with the Lakers up four and supposedly running down the clock, and committed an offensive foul with 22 seconds remaining.
Second, after the Kings tied the game with four seconds remaining, he failed to get the ball to Bryant, instead hastily pulling the trigger on an ill-fated 25-footer. Kobe was clearly angry, and made it plain that he had wanted the ball.
Which brings us to Q1.
Up to the end of regulation -- in other words, until Odom's fateful errors -- Kobe was playing at an unbelievable level. He had scored 46 points, including 12 in the last 5:43, and had made all 13 of his free throws, giving him a Lakers-record 48 straight FTs made.
But playing under the influence of the frustration of seeing the Lakers' lead slip away, Bryant seemed to find a new gear: call it Gatling Gun mode, because while the Kings were taking the lead, he quickly fired up three extremely difficult shots -- including two long 3s -- that had little chance of going in.
His body language said, we're winning or losing this game on my terms, like it or not. He took six of the Lakers' first seven shots in OT, making only two. Basically, he shot the Lakers right out of the game.
It's been an incredible season for Kobe. In the last week alone, he's vanquished LeBron and Shaq, two of his greatest rivals.
But on Thursday, he and Odom conspired somehow to turn Kobe's 51-point performance into an L.
Something ain't right in the land of La-La.
This wasn't Kobe Bryant's exact expression when Lamar Odom took the final shot of regulation, instead of No. 8. But it's probably close. Bryant finished with 51 points in the 118-109 loss to Sacramento.
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Sacramento, led by Mike Bibby's 41 and Kenny Thomas' triple-double, takes an overtime win against the visiting Lakers.
Kings beat Lakers in OT
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Quote of the Day
"It was like the JV against the varsity. I think they could've beaten us by 50."
-- Knicks coach Larry Brown, after his team was thrashed by his old team, the Detroit Pistons, at Madison Square Garden.
-- Andrew Ayres
How can we question what Antonio Davis did -- at the time he did it?
How can we question what he felt in his heart, mind and soul was the right thing to do for his family?
Isn't one of the subdefinitions of manhood to understand that not everything in your life is about you? That, at times, the people for whom you are responsible need you to protect them at all costs? Doesn't it mean that, in very certain situations, you take matters into your own hands? Even if the result is ejection and suspension?
In Sacramento's 118-109 overtime win against the Lakers, Kobe Bryant scored 51 points, Mike Bibby scored 40 points and Kenny Thomas had a triple-double. It's only the second game in NBA history in which one player scored 50-plus points, a second player scored 40-plus points and a third player recorded a triple-double.
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