Lakers Roll without Kobe, But Chicago Will Be a Different Story

The LA Lakers, playing their first game without a healthy Kobe Bryant in more than a decade and a half, played a once-in-a-decade-and-a-half game that bore little resemblance to 2014 NBA reality. In the game, the talent-deficient Lakers, possessors of an 8-19 record and buried in last place in the Pacific Division, got off to a fast start against the Golden State Warriors, possessors of the league’s best record at 23-3, and were never headed, winning going away by ten points, 115 to 105.

The Lakers shot 51.7%, almost ten percentage points above their season average, helped in

great part by including no misses from Kobe, who has put in a career low 37% of his shots this season. The high-flying Warriors shot only 46.4% but did hit on 46.2% of their threes, the same 12-of-36 as the Lakers. In the never-to-be-repeated category, you can also put, underline, and highlight in yellow, the 17 points scored by the NBA's worst shooter, Ronnie Price.

Now the question is whether or not Kobe will play
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in tomorrow night’s game in Chicago, where the Bulls, winners of seven of their last eight games, have been invigorated by the return to health and form by Derrick Rose. Rose, who some observer say is only about 75% recovered from a string of serious injuries that kept him on the sidelines for more than two seasons, has been shooting often and well, and driving to the basket with his old fearlessness, and is coming off back-to-back 29 and 25 point performances against two of the East’s best team, Toronto and Washington. Will Kobe want to play against Rose? A year ago there would be no hesitation in answering that “yes”. Today, I’d have to say probably, but with a distinct lack of conviction.

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Also, Lakers' fans, contributing mightily in Chicago, where the 19-9 Bulls have a 1-1/2 game lead in their division, is former Lakers' big man Pau Gasol, who was written off in LA as dead and buried, but who is having a major comeback season, averaging 18 points and a career best 11.4
rebounds per game. Combine that with the steady play, including great defense, of Joakim Noah, and the emergence in Rose’s absence of star shooting guard Jimmy Butler, who has increased his per-game scoring from 13.1 to 21.7 from last season to this, and his field goal percentage from 39.7% to 48%, and the Bulls have a well-rounded, solid starting corp, and a good bench, that could propel them to the the NBA finals.

I never thought the Lakers could play as well as they did last night in beating the Warriors, but I would be astounded to see them stay close with the Bulls, with or without Kobe, tomorrow evening in Chicago.

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