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News » Kobe is on time for L.A.

Kobe is on time for L.A.

Kobe is on time for L.A.
In the fourth quarter Tuesday night, the Thunder had made a game of it against the mighty Lakers, and while L.A. coach Phil Jackson didn't seem concerned, Kobe Bryant was.

Tired of sitting, Kobe politicked Jackson to re-enter the game, so Jackson obliged.


The Lakers beat the Thunder 107-93 at the Ford Center for many reasons. Los Angeles has a fabulous team. And the Thunder's defense has gone belly-up.

But foremost, the Lakers won because they had the world's best player.

Kobe scored 13 points in a five-minute span, and the Thunder's hopes for a monumental victory in this maiden season were dashed.

"Kobe's one of a handful of players in the league who have some shots that are undefendable," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before the game.

That's the thing. The Thunder's defense was mostly awful. But the Thunder's defense against Kobe wasn't half bad.

The trade last week for Thabo Sefolosha gives Oklahoma City two athletic wings it can throw at perimeter studs, and both Kyle Weaver and Sefolosha did a decent job of dogging Kobe.

But it's still not enough. Not against Kobe. He entered just in time for Weaver to complete a 3-point play that drew the Thunder within 79-77 with 9:33 left.

Too close for Kobe's comfort. He scored on four straight Laker possessions to give L.A. a cushion. Kobe finished with 15 fourth-quarter points and 36 total, on 13-of-21 shooting.

That's what NBA superstars do, and Kobe is the most elite of NBA superstars.

Kevin Durant, for all his scoring prowess this month and this season, failed to keep up. Durant finished with 32 points, but just five in the fourth quarter, all on foul shots.

OKC needed Durant, who was otherwise superb, to go off in the fourth quarter, but the Lakers put down the defensive clamps.

That's something the Thunder really knows very little about.

At least the Thunder held the Lakers to their league-leading scoring average, after back-to-back games allowing 140 (Phoenix) and 133 (Golden State).

But OKC has a long way to go to get to defensive competitiveness.

"Our foundation is defense," Brooks said. "Instead of scoring and then defending sometimes, we have to improve defensively."

The Thunder has improved much more quickly on offense than on defense.

Ironically, it was offense that let OKC down Tuesday night. The Thunder shot 41.8 percent, and Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook were off their February games. Green had averaged 20 points and Westbrook 19.9 in February, but they combined for just 24 on 9-of-27 shooting against the Lakers.

Oh well. The offense will come. It's the defense that worries Brooks. But no reason to blame the defense on Kobe. Great defense doesn't work against some players.

Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: February 27, 2009


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