The Lakers entered having won four straight and 14 of their last 17 games. In addition, their 35-8 record was the NBA’s best.
But it didn’t matter against the Bobcats.
“I just think it was a terrific performance against a great team,” Brown said. “I really don’t know how to explain it because they are playing at such a high level.”
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he couldn’t explain why the Bobcats have had the Lakers’ number.
Down to three healthy digits on his shooting hand, his evening yet to stretch from court to X-ray machine, Kobe Bryant dug his shoulder into LeBron James’ chest, bumped him back then bumped him again. James yielded a sliver of space, and that was all Bryant needed. He spun on his toes, lifted in the air and released a perfect rainbow of a shot that dropped through the net.
On this night, the highlights were few and far between for Bryant, unless you consider herding James into a corral of 7-footers must-see TV. And maybe that was the biggest statement the Los Angeles Lakers made with their 105-88 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bryant shared the floor with James for the first time this season, the reigning MVP versus the current favorite, and if Kobe proved anything it was this: With these Lakers, he doesn’t always have to be, well, Kobe.
This month, I’ve realized two things are overrated: New Year’s resolutions and determining who’s better between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
We put so much emphasis on the start of a new year without thinking about just how random the date is. All it marks is a point on the Earth’s orbit, and if we’re not going to use in our everyday lives the days the Earth is closest to or farthest from the sun, one day is really no different from any other day. To us, nothing really changes on Jan. 1. Where is the start or finish on an ellipse? Someone (apparently, Julius Caesar) happened to pick Jan. 1, so that’s the date after which the waiting times for the treadmill at your health club increase thanks to all the extra people who resolved to lose weight. It’s arbitrary.
Both Houston and San Antonio did whatever they wanted offensively in the first three frames against L.A. and took decent-sized leads into the fourth; the Lakers were able to leave Houston with a W thanks to a monstrous closing kick from Bryant, but that’s not a formula for winning games consistently — as they found out Wednesday and Jan. 6 against New Orleans, when they gave up 89 points in the first three stanzas and found they couldn’t suddenly turn it on.
Sasha Vujacic became the latest Lakers player to head for the trainer’s room, leaving the team with a muddled bill of health heading into tonight’s game in Houston and Wednesday’s in San Antonio.
Luke Walton and Jordan Farmar did not make the trip, and Vujacic did not board the charter flight Monday afternoon because of back spasms, though he might catch up to the team in the next day or two if his back settles down.
The injury report wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Lakers.