Well would you look at this; a Los Angeles Lakers winning streak. And not just any streak; the Lakers two victories came against potential playoff teams in the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder, unquestionably one of the best teams in the NBA. So what is responsible for the Lakers sudden turn-around?
If you look at the stat sheet, the most noticeable change has been Kobe Bryant’s enthusiasm to get his teammates involved, to the tune of 14 assists in each of the past two games. Bryant has made a concerted effort to take better shots and find his open teammates when the opposing defense collapses around him, and the result has been two impressive Lakers victories.
Not only is Kobe distributing more in recent games, his shot selection has been phenomenal. Out of the 22 shots Bryant has taken in the last two games, not a single one has come from beyond the three-point line, where Bryant was previously taking over six a game. Since Bryant was only connecting on 25% from three over the Lakers four-game losing streak, abandoning the long-range shot and getting looks closer to the paint was a wise move on his part.
Pau Gasol appears to have settled into his role off the bench and is averaging 16 points while shooting .594 from the field since returning from his concussion. Steve Nash has taken on more of a spot-up shooter’s role and is knocking down jumpers all over the court. Dwight Howard may not be putting up huge numbers yet, but his energy is visibly improved.
With Bryant playing more of a playmaker role other Lakers players have not only looked more comfortable on offense, but that energy has translated to the defensive end as well. The Lakers held the Jazz to 84 points on 42% from the field on Friday before limiting the high-powered Thunder to 96 points on 44.4% from the floor.
Things may be turning around for the Lakers, and it all begins with the revised play of Kobe Bryant. It’s a shame that it took 44 games for them to start to figure it out.