Kobe, Starting to Wear Down Picks His Spots For Greatness

Published on: 23rd January, 2010

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Lakers Knicks Basketball
Kobe, Starting to Wear Down Picks His Spots For Greatness

New York Knicks' David Lee (42) guards Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (24) during the first period of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 22, 2010, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek) Original Filename: Lakers_Knicks_Basketball_NYKK101.jpg  | read this item

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New York – Kobe Bryant had 13 fourth quarter points on the way to his game-high 27 as he led the Lakers to a 115-105 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden last night.

This was not vintage Bryant in his only appearance of the season in New York, where he electrified the Garden last year with a 61-point performance. The 2009-10 version of Kobe Bryant is now 32 years old, a veteran of 13 NBA seasons and it appears, the wear and tear of the game is starting to take a toll on the Lakers star.

Even though his statistics are still very much in the upper-echelon of the NBA, Bryant now leans more heavily on his teammates to more than do their share of scoring and playmaking when he simply doesn’t have the physical energy to take over games as he once could do effortlessly.

 “I don’t think the way we’re playing we’re ready for that type of situation,” Bryant said when asked if he thought about trying to break scoring records as he did last year at this arena.. “Guys have got to get going. Pau (Gasol’s) got to get going. Andrew (Bynum’s) got to get going. Other players have to find their rhythm. I need them on this (eight-game) road trip. It wasn’t tempting at all (to go for 61).”

“You knew with the way he was shooting he was going to try and take over in the fourth,” Wilson Chandler said. “You can never get too comfortable with him.”

Despite playing with a broken right index finger, and a variety of other ailments such as a sore back and legs worn down by a long season, Bryant took over when it mattered most.

“My finger is broken in two places,” Bryant said. “If I hit it it’s not going to break anymore.”

Bryant made just eight of 24 shots and even had an air ball late in the fourth quarter. In the third, he nearly lost the ball on what should have been a breakaway dunk. Instead, with the ball slipping out of his hands, Bryant had to settle for a layup and boos from the crowd.

Ron Artest scored11 points in 28 minutes, and Lamar Odom added 14 rebounds. Both got their chance to guard Danilo Gallinari in the second half, and the Knicks’ forward failed to produce a field goal.

David Lee showed the national television audience (the game was broadcast by ESPN) why he is deserving of a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star roster, finished with a season-high 31 points with 17 rebounds. Unfortunately for the Knicks, Lee has become the “go-to” player on the offensive end when all else breaks down. Lee, certainly a developing offensive player but never to be confused with any of the league’s elite scorers would be a third or fourth option on championship contending teams so therein likes a problem for the Knicks, who merely aspire to earn a playoff spot among the top eight teams in the conference.

The Knicks (17-25) lost for the fifth time in their last seven games. After giving up 36 first-quarter points, they rallied to draw even at 63 by halftime. But they lost a bit of their edge when Nate Robinson was forced to leave the game with a strained hamstring.

Robinson played just 10 minutes, and his absence was magnified with Chris Duhon making just one of nine shots. Mike D’Antoni went to Larry Hughes for seven minutes in the second half, but Hughes, who had sat eight of the previous nine games, was understandably rusty. The Knicks were up 81-79 when Hughes entered the game, only to trail by four when he left.

“We lost our rhythm a little bit,” D’Antoni said. “I thought we played them pretty good. And then Kobe and Gasol at the end of the game, was a little too much.”

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