There was an anticipated letdown after the just completed 6-0 road trip, and the action Tuesday night at Staples Center was evident in its ragged pace and play. The Oklahoma City Thunder (nee Seattle Sonics) entered the contest on a modest two-game winning streak and winners or 9 of its last 18 games. But the final outcome was never in danger, just the degree of difficulty. Whereas the Lakers sputtered to the finish line, the Thunder were simply outmatched, outsized, and outplayed when it mattered most. Watching Russell Westbrook, Earl Watson, Jordan Farmer and Trevor Ariza take to the floor at the same time appeared like a Pauley Pavillion scrimmage, rather than an NBA contest. And at times, the play mimicked a college game, full of unforced errors, missed lay-ups and sloppy ball handling. But the one thing that this game had over the equally exciting Morehouse vs. Fort Valley State match-up was Kobe Bryant. Sure, Lamar Odom continued his stellar play with 12 points and 18 rebounds, and Pau Gasol followed suit with 22 and 14, but it’s Bryant whom we all go to see, whom we all love or hate, and whom never simply plays routine, or just okay.
dEDGE Post Scriptum
If you run off for a quick snack, you may miss the highlight of the game. If you dash off for a bathroom break, you run the risk of missing “the shot.” But for me, if you change the channel, because well, the game was kinda boring you know… you don’t get to witness Kobe bypassing Clyde Drexler into 21st place on the all-time scoring list with 23,020 points. He is the youngest player to reach the 23,000 points plateau, younger than Moses, younger than MJ, and younger than Wilt. I’m sure one day King James will obliterate this record, but do you recall when Kobe was a rookie kid in the NBA? He barely got off the bench in his first season, averaging a little over 15 minutes a game! Coach Del Harris was trying to teach Kobe patience and illustrate how veterans deserved the bulk of the minutes. What a knucklehead… Regardless, Kobe demonstrated again that he is never merely a participant in an NBA contest. He is one of those rare phenoms that you don’t dare miss watching because the extraordinary can happen at any moment. Each game that Kobe plays provides us with an exclamation, an exultation, or a moment of sheer disbelief. …Driving baseline, the Jordan-like tilt of his frame, the ball tucked under his wing, the double clutch,the soft reverse bucket on the other side of the lane. …The crossover dribble to split the double team, the ball cocked back behind his ear, the floating ascension towards the rim, the thunderous slam through the hoop. ESPN Top Ten highlights occur frequently for a chosen few. For Kobe, each game contains a Top Ten. So, at the next break in the action, don’t run off for some nachos, and hold off on the liquids to minimize the potty breaks, and don’t dare touch that remote.