Kobe Bryant’s return was supposed to jolt this team into competitor status. He was meant to pull them into a playoff contender. This Lakers squad to start the year was a stopgap until he returned.
Two games into his return and that theory has been blown entirely out of the water.
After dropping his initial return contest Sunday evening, the Lakers dropped their second straight contest, third straight at home, and looked completely incapable of even slowing down the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night. Goran Dragic had 31 points, the Morris twins combined for 37 points, and Phoenix led from nearly start to finish en route to a 114-108 victory.
The story of the night remained Bryant’s return to the lineup. After looking mortal Sunday, Bryant rebounded with a more Kobe-esque now of 20 points on 6 of 11 shooting. However, not even Bryant could drag the Lakers back late in the fourth. Pau Gasol bounced back from his own lackluster effort with 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Jordan Hill all finished with 13 points and Xavier Henry added 12 of his own, but none of it was enough against the talented Suns back court.
Eric Bledsoe proved why he was highly coveted this off-season, scoring 18 points while dishing out 9 assists. Dragic’s 31 point led all scorers, and Channing Frye added 11 of his own. Phoenix trailed just once, falling behind 3-0 in the first quarter, before taking the lead and never relenting on the night. On more than one occasion, the Lakers cut the lead to one possession, but Phoenix found the key stops and big buckets when they needed them to keep the game just out of reach.
The Lakers won’t have long to sulk. Friday starts a four-game road trip ranging from Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Atlanta, and ending in Memphis, a span of four games in five days.