The biggest game of the season came courtesy of the best team in the NBA. The 34-10 Thunder paid the Lakers a visit on a beautiful Sunday afternoon after several days of rain. This later evolved to be a metaphor as a new beginning after the storm for the 16X Champion Los Angeles Lakers.
The glitz and glam of Hollywood's elite and a jammed-packed STAPLES Center arena would help cheer on their home team in anticipation of Kobe Part II, ignited from two nights ago.
A usually labelled "selfish" Kobe Bryant has metamorphosed into the leader and team player that loyal fans have been defending for so long. Today's 105-96 team victory confirms that the reconstructed facilitating Mamba is no accident. Let's talk about Kobe's production from this mini two-game winning streak.
January 25th - Kobe's Epiphany
The visiting Utah Jazz seek to take advantage of a dieing Lakers team who continue their struggles to be at .500. L.A. had lost four straight entering the game and even worse had only won two games entering the new year.
Surprise! Surprise! Utah would fall victim to a Kobe Bryant that no pre-game tape would prepare them for. Kobe's epiphany moment would come 24 (of course) seconds into the game when MWP rewarded Kobe by draining an open three - assist #1 Kobe Bryant. Weeks prior Kobe would've shot over five defenders before looking weak side.
Since that moment, Kobe would be in facilitator beast mode dishing to teammates who were as shocked to receive the ball as statisticians were marking past 1 in the assists column. Team captain was finding his teammates and his teammates were finding rhythm. It was contagious.
Kobe would end the night with a season high 14-assists followed by an overshadowed 14-points/9-rebounds. He could've scored another 81-points and it wouldn't of mattered. To give some perspective, the last time he had as many assists was on November 14, 2010 against the Suns. Nash had 13 assists that game.
In my opinion the bigger stat was Kobe's 10 FGA. This proves that Kobe doesn't need to score 30+ for the team to win.
January 27th - Encore Performance
The true test would come against a very fast and talented OKC Thunder team who held the best record in the league. Quite the opposite from their opponent whose playoffs hopes were and still are hanging by a thread.
Was the win over the tough Utah Jazz just another erratic W before a series of losses? The big stage was set with an even bigger opportunity to prove skeptics wrong. Pattern would await for the first half Lakers to come out battled and beaten by the heavily favored highly advanced Supersonics.
As the world turned so did the tide. Lakers had six players in double figures - Thunder had four. Durant would have a (ex)Kobe-like performance scoring a game high 35-points (10-26 FG) while leaving his teammates in the dust. Westbrook was closest at 17-points.
The newly social @KobeBryant must be reading Magic's tweets because Kobe's pre-game agenda was without a doubt to manufacture the same results he'd given versus the Jazz. Remember, Kobe was averaging 22 FGA before these two games so anything less would be astonishing.
Objective complete. Kobe produces his best game (that ends in a victory) and the best team win of the season. His encore performance consisted of 14-assists/9-rebounds/21-points (by design I lead with assists and end in points). If Kobe would've brought down just one more rebound from both games he would've had consecutive triple doubles.
Again, the stand-out stat of the night is his ridiculously (by his standard) low 12 FGA. Kobe's had back-to-back 14-assist games. Thats' unheard of! I'm loving this new Kobe. Team chemistry has grown tenfold and Kobe is smiling again.
Lakers next two opponents to end the month are the 15-29 New Orleans Hornets and the 15-30 Phoenix Suns. I'm not going to jinx anything but if there was any month to finish strong, it would be this one.
References: Utah Jazz Box Score, OKC Thunder Box Score - Yahoo! Sports