Jan. 30, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reacts in the fourth quarter against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Lakers 92-86. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Game Twenty One Preview: Lakers (10-10) vs. Suns (11-9)


Well that was anti-climactic wasn’t it? Kobe Bryant’s return was ultra-hyped, and the moment he stepped on the court, Lakers fans everywhere rejoiced. But, in reality, that was the best moment of the night. The Lakers either looked lethargic (Pau Gasol), rusty (Kobe Bryant), or filled with nerves (everyone else). As always been the case, the Bench Mob nearly saved the night, with everyone bench player reaching double figures in scoring, but it was too little, too late.

 

But if anyone expected a heroic performance from Bryant, you probably expected him to be ready opening night as well. It just simply wasn’t going to happen. It takes time not only for Bryant to ease back into game shape, but for the team to ease it’s way around him.

 

Tonight, the Lakers have another chance at growing together. This time, the game is less publicized. No one cares about Bryant’s second game. The expectations are lower and the publicity is less, against a Suns squad that is exceeding all expectations. At 11-9, the Suns are in the playoff chase when most thought they’d be competing for Andrew Wiggins. Laced with young talent, they are an energetic and youthful squad led by Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.

 

X-FACTOR OF THE NIGHT

Pau Gasol. Gasol played so poorly Sunday evening that he was booed by the Lakers fan. He took it personally, and judging by reports from practice Monday, Gasol came out determined. Tonight, I think Gasol will have a throwback game. He needs to, as the Lakers need a post-scoring presence.

 

NUMBER OF THE NIGHT

8. As in the number of turnovers Bryant had Sunday evening in 28 minutes of play. Or the number could be 28, for the number of minutes Bryant played. Both have to be reduced tonight.

 

PREDICTION

The Lakers will bounce back tonight. After a disappointing game Sunday, they have another seemingly inferior opponent who they SHOULD defeat. Tonight, Bryant has a more efficient night and Gasol improves his play as Lakers win 101-88.

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