Can the Los Angeles Lakers win without their superstar shooting guard Kobe Bryant in the lineup? Well Bryant has only been out five games while resting his bruised shin but the Lakers are 4-1 in his absence.
Everybody has pitched in to help keep the Lakers in the win column but if there is one lesson that L.A.’s big men will learn from Bryant’s absence is that things are so much easier when the Black Mamba is in the lineup.
Look no further than Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum’s shooting percentages for proof of that. In the five games that Bryant has been out, both big men have had only one game apiece where they shot for over 50%.
Gasol has gone four straight games shooting under 50% and Bynum has had his first three-game stretch of the season where he didn’t top 50% in field goal shooting percentage.
Even more telling is that Bynum has already topped 20 field goal attempts four times in the month of April. He only had one game with over 20 shot attempts before this month.
As you can see the Lakers are definitely looking to get Bynum the ball more in Bryant’s absence so if he can figure out how to be more efficient when Bryant isn’t on the floor it will help them out tremendously going forward.
His poor shooting percentage also shows how dangerous teams feel Bynum can be. With both Gasol and Bynum on the floor Sunday, the Dallas Mavericks looked to crowd and double Bynum every time he got his hands on the ball.
It doesn’t hurt that Gasol chooses to settle for jump shots as opposed to working for shots in the paint. Gasol has taken five three-point attempts over the past three games.
He took multiple attempts from three in two of those three games. Before that he only had two games all season where he took more than one attempt from behind the arc.
Ramon Sessions has played well for the Lakers during this stretch but the two guys who have had the biggest impact in Bryant’s absence have been small forwards Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes.
World Peace has had his best scoring output of the season with double-digit scoring in five of the last six games. If he continues to put up the solid scoring and shooting numbers he is putting up now then April will be the first month this season where he will actually average double-digits in scoring.
While World Peace has given the Lakers a boost from the starting lineup, Barnes has given them a boost off the bench.
In the Lakers’ last four games, Barnes has shot over 57% from the field and is 10 of 16 from behind the arc. He was only two assists shy of a triple double against the Mavericks on Sunday with 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
So it seems that Bryant’s absence has caused his teammates to step up their game which may bode well for the Lakers in the playoffs. The Lakers played horrible in last year’s playoffs especially in the second round where they were swept by the Mavericks.
And with the Lakers currently in third place in the West and the Mavs in sixth place, it’s looking like these two are headed for a first round matchup. The Lakers have five more regular season games left to play with two of those coming against the San Antonio Spurs and a home game versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Bryant may be back in the lineup when the Lakers play the Spurs at home on Tuesday but if not they should be okay. They just beat the Spurs by 14 in San Antonio just this past Wednesday.
At the same time Los Angeles can’t get complacent either. Last season they went into the playoffs thinking they would easily grab another title and ended up getting swept by the Mavs in the second round.
But after their embarrassing exit in last year’s playoffs the Lakers want to be the one’s doing the sweeping this year.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at RHall_TPFB@Yahoo.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.