Kobe Bryant again showcased why he is a living legend in his sport with a 31-point playoff performance while suffering from a stomach illness in last night’s playoff Game 6 in Denver.
Although it wasn’t much of a game.
Denver bolted out of the gates with a 13-0 run, challenging The Lakers with court speed and a suffocating defensive effort that L.A. never matched. Nuggets fans went wild as their squad posted a 17-point beat down and forced a trip back to Staples Center in Los Angeles for the first Game 7 of the 2012 playoffs.
The suffering Bryant played a team-high 37 minutes in a determined performance but the story quickly shifted from Kobe’s bravado to the perceived lack of effort from his teammates, notably power forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum. The pair contributed only 14 total points and displayed a general lack of passion as Denver’s young roster locked down the middle of the court with an array of blocks and contested shots which shut down The Lakers low-post game entirely.
After the game, Bryant was uncharacteristically vocal to the media about his teammates’ disappointing showing.
“It’s one of those things where psychologically you have to put yourself in a predicament, in a position, where you have no other option but to perform. You have to emotionally put your back to the wall and kind of trick yourself, so to speak, to feel that there’s no other option but to perform and to battle, when you have that, when you have that mindset, your performance shines through, your talent shines through. It doesn’t matter what the defense does. It doesn’t matter because you’re emotionally at a level that is above that. That is the mindset that they have to put themselves in.”
Bryant and coach Mike Brown were seen deliberating court-side many times during the lopsided Game 6 but neither were able to motivate the rest of the team into action.
Something had better change for L.A. before Saturday’s Game 7 if The Lakers plan on making a serious run in these playoffs. The next round would place them opposite the intimidating Oklahoma City who, like Denver, possess youth and speed but with a much higher talent level. As much as experience and determination can take teams deep into the playoffs, youth and will to win are a dangerous combination, especially when your season becomes a single-elimination affair. The Lakers would do well to remember last year when the 8th seeded Memphis Grizzlies beat the top seed Spurs in the first round, a squad of baby-faced upstarts besting a crew of perennial veteran contenders.
Kobe and his crew need to show some more heart if they want to escape the same fate.
Brandon Rompa is a writer and musician from Minneapolis, MN. He began writing album reviews and current-event music articles for his college paper at Winona State University in 2007 and has continued to pursue the craft in his leisure time since, hoping to share his love of recorded music, present and past, in a conversational and relatable manner.
Email Brandon at email@example.com