Kobe Bryant is one of the most accomplished scorers in NBA history but his teammates certainly seemed pleased at his effort on Friday night to share the ball against the Utah Jazz.
Bryant notched 14 assists along with 14 points. He finished one rebound short of a triple-double.
“I tried to make a real concerted effort to force the game upon my teammates a little bit and just have them play with confidence,” said Bryant. “Even the shots that are not going in, just try to push it on them a little bit.”
The Lakers have been falling apart game-after-game. Their 102-84 win over the Jazz was a step in the right direction.
“Their backs are up against the wall,” said Utah head coach Tyrone Corbin. “They were just more aggressive.”
Pau Gasol scored 15 points on 7-8 shooting.
“Kobe’s being able to share the ball like this tonight, he gets everyone involved,” said Gasol. “He is going to get his looks and he’s just giving up balance that we need offensively.”
Forward Earl Clark noticed Bryant’s contribution.
“When he decides he’s going to get assists and find other players, it gets us in our rhythm, gets us ready to shoot, and today guys were knocking down shots and it was a great win,” said Clark.
Steve Nash was effusive.
“I thought Kobe was brilliant,” said Nash. “He was looking to get into spots where he could draw a crowd and find his teammates. It shows how talented and capable he is. If we can get that type of balance from our team we could be pretty good.”
Even the Jazz recognized how difficult it was to play against Bryant as facilitator.
“He had 14 assists tonight and he’s only had 12 assists in the last 20 games,” exaggerated Al Jefferson (Bryant had 13 over the three previous games). “When he’s moving the ball like that, the way they he did tonight, it just gives everybody a chance to get in a great groove. They became a difficult team to stop.”
Bryant said he was trying to make sure Dwight Howard got plenty of offensive opportunities.
“I was trying to look for [Dwight] as much as I can,” said Bryant. “Try to get him in rhythm and try to manipulate the defense a little bit to get him into position to be successful.”
Howard didn’t want to say much about his dynamic with Bryant. He danced around the issue, but it was clear that he prefers a more-balanced team attack.
The Lakers have many problems this season but when led by Bryant as a willing passer, the team becomes something more than the 18-25 squad that has struggled through most of the season.