When Kobe Bryant fully integrates himself into his team's offense, the Los Angeles Lakers are the most elegant outfit in the NBA. Bryant can perform both as scorer and facilitator, contrary to the false distinction that's sometimes drawn between these two functions. Bryant's best formula for success is applying one role in service of the other, something he did brilliantly in Game 2 against Phoenix on Wednesday night.
Bryant recognized a more aggressive (though discombobulated) Suns' defensive scheme that ran double-teams at him indiscriminately. He leveraged this attention by finding shooters who were left open by help defenders. In the first half alone, Bryant assisted on five 3-pointers (three by Ron Artest, one by Shannon Brown, one by Derek Fisher, and a hockey assist on a bomb by Jordan Farmar).
After the Suns adjusted in the second half by sending help to Bryant from down low rather than the perimeter, he countered by looking for Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Bryant hit his big men on basket cuts and off pick-and-rolls. Against a smaller, scattered Suns defense, that was the path of least resistance for the Lakers and Bryant happily navigated it.
Bryant finished with a career playoff high 13 assists on the night to go along with 21 points: