Kobe Bryant hoisted far more shots than anyone in the NBA through the first seven weeks of the season before his 36-year-old body wore down and forced him to take some time off.
He’s begun to share the load more since returning, but coach Byron Scott is hoping his superstar will be just a little more selfish moving forward.
Bryant looks to help the Los Angeles Lakers avoid dropping a fourth straight meeting with the visiting Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.
Through his first 27 games, Bryant averaged 22.4 shot attempts – nearly three more than any other player – as the Lakers (10-23) limped to an 8-19 start. He then took three games off to rest after finishing 8 of 30 from the field in a loss to Sacramento on Dec. 21.
Bryant, though, has averaged just 11.7 shots in three games since returning while averaging 16.0 points and hitting 45.7 percent from the field after making 37.2 percent before his break.
He’s averaging 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on the season, but those numbers have gone up to 9.3 and 8.7 over the last three. Bryant finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer of Friday’s 109-106 home loss to Memphis.
"It’s been interesting, because he’s really trying to keep his (shot) numbers down," Scott said. "I can’t argue with the results. He’s getting everybody involved, still rebounding the ball and he’s still being aggressive. I would like his shots to be a little bit more, but I can’t argue with the way he’s playing."
Jeremy Lin and Ed Davis scored 20 points apiece against the Grizzlies as Los Angeles lost for the seventh time in nine games.
Lin shot 9 of 14 from the field and added five assists and three steals.
”He played well,” Bryant said of Lin. ”It’s a fine balance for him, in terms of when to shoot it and when to set everybody up, but he’ll work through it.”
Bryant went 8 for 26 from the floor and scored 21 points in a 110-91 loss at Indiana on Dec. 15. The Pacers have won the last three meetings by an average of 17 points, and will be seeking a season-best third consecutive victory after beating Milwaukee 94-91 on Friday to open a four-game road trip.
C.J. Miles, who along with Rodney Stuckey had 20 points against the Lakers, finished with a game-high 22 off the bench against the Bucks. Donald Sloan replaced the injured George Hill (strained groin) in the starting lineup and finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Sloan received three straight "DNP-Coach’s Decision" lines before playing more than 33 minutes. He’s gone from starting to being completely out of the rotation and back again multiple times this season.
C.J. Watson also sat out with a foot injury.
”We have some guys out so you have to have that next-man-up mentality and some guys have to play more,” coach Frank Vogel said. ”That makes those wins more fun. They mean more, they’re more enjoyable. This is one of them.”
Roy Hibbert scored 18 points after totaling 22 over his previous three. It doesn’t bother him that he may be underestimated because of his inconsistency.
"I don’t really care what (anyone’s) perception is, just get ready for the game." Hibbert said. "I’m not going to speculate what (anyone) thinks."
Indiana has won three of four on the road following an eight-game skid away from home.