I haven’t written about Kobe too much this season, aside from some harsh but true statistical efficiency observations early in the season and the debate as to whether the Lakers were better or worse in games he didn’t play (for the record, they are 2-8 without Kobe, so technically, the answer is “worse”). And after the last two games, perhaps the answer is “WAY worse.”
The Lakers have won two straight, and while wins over Minnesota and New Orleans aren’t a reason to start printing playoff tickets, the Pelicans wins win was on the road, something that is never easy in the NBA regardless of the opponent. And the most remarkable thing is the crazy-good play of one Kobe Bean Bryant. The 37-year old Hall of Famer to be looked pretty shot most of the first half of the season, but in his last two games he has tallied 65 points and he added 12 rebounds in last night’s road win, which included chants of “M-V-P” from the opposing crowd.
Is it sustainable? Of course not. But is it fun, and a delightful ray of basketball joy in the midst of the dog days of winter? Absolutely.
We have a perfect NBA week rolling at 3-0 with yesterday’s off day included. Let’s see if we can cap off the week in perfect fashion, as we will be taking a little Super Bowl hiatus this weekend with the hoops.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Milwaukee Bucks at Utah Jazz -7
The Jazz enter tonight on their longest winning streak of the season and firmly entrenched in a dog fight for the final playoff spot. The #8 seed might not seem like a terrific prize to many fans, given that you trade a hope for ping-pong ball miracles for the joy of getting four L’s in quick fashion to the Warriors, but for a proud franchise like Utah, it would represent a big step back towards respectability. It is no coincidence that their winning way have coincided with two big factors; playing at home, and playing the Jazz defense that stifled teams early in the season.
The Jazz have held three of their last four opponents under 90 points, and have a good chance to do so again tonight against the road-miserable and three-point deficient Milwaukee Bucks. They do shoot 46% as a team, but they average the fewest attempts from deep in the league. With the NBA’s new math, that just won’t cut it. There is also another big problem tonight: It is also no coincidence that the Jazz defense once again became stifling when the Stifle Tower returned to action. His stats may not be jaw-popping, but Rudy Gobert is THE absolute key to everything Utah does. Assuming he stays healthy down the stretch, I like this Utah team to outduel Denver and Portland for the final playoff berth. With Gobert patrolling the paint, Milwaukee will have to hit jump shots tonight. That isn’t their strength.
Milwaukee hasn’t won a road game in a long time and are just 7-23 on the road this season. Meanwhile, Utah is 16-10, and keep in mind, they have been riddled by more injuries than just about any team in the NBA. Now they are (mostly) healthy and starting to play well.
I like Utah to win with ease tonight and to extend the Bucks road misery. I think this is a tough matchup for Milwaukee stylistically, plus Utah is playing really well and the Bucks flat-out stink away from home.