Am I the only one who fears the Lakers more when Kobe isn't on the court?
Probably. But hear me out.
Since Kobe went out with an ankle/finger/foot injury, LA is 4-0, with two of those wins coming on the road. Here's a look at last night's game against the Warriors, specifically crunch time.
The Warriors tied the game at 89 with 4:37 left. The Lakers then went out on a 7 point run, effectively putting the Warriors out of reach. After Ron Artest made a foul shot, the Lakers went inside to Pau Gasol. In fact, he went on to score the next 6 points. The Warriors really had no answer (they tried using Ronny Turiaf) to defend Gasol, so the Lakers went to him time and time again.
As a Jazz fan, I look at this Laker team and realize Utah (and many other teams) can do nothing to stop Gasol or Odom or Bynum. And as the game in Salt Lake on the 10th showed, Pau and Lamar went for 25 and 22 points, respectively, on 70% shooting from the field and 92.8% shooting from the free-throw line. As long as the Lakers kept banging it inside and finding the open man when the double team came, the Jazz were not winning that game.
Want to know how the Jazz can beat LA? By baiting Kobe into taking 19-foot fadeaways while triple teamed. Convince Kobe he is a shooting god, and then pray he goes 9-29. That is the only way.
As good a scorer as Kobe is, he is just a scorer. He doesn't make his teammates better, like LeBron does. (If LeBron was out for 4+ games, how many victories do you think the Cavs get during that time?) He just shoots, and shoots well more often than not. But that's it.
Last night, Tim Duncan shot 4-23 from the field. Now normally, if Kobe has a night like that, the Lakers lose, because he can't give you much else. Sure, he defends well, but that can only take you so far.
Duncan, in response to his poor shooting performance, decided to absolutely dominate the boards and own everything under the basket. He pulled down 26 rebounds and held the Indiana big men to 10-23 shooting. And San Antonio won, partly in thanks to a Duncan offensive rebound with under 10 seconds to go and the Spurs up 3, allowing San Antonio to run the clock and preserve the win.
Compare that to Kobe, who will mope and sulk if things aren't going his way and find ways to blame his teammates.
If the Black Mamba had the maturity to understand that he can't do it by himself every night, if he was more willing to find an open Odom cutting to the hoop or feed Pau in the deep post, I'd respect his game a lot more. But it's all about him.
And I think the Lakers, as presently constituted, are a slightly better team without him doing his own thing, for his own reasons, every night.