Kobe Bryant uncharacteristically missed his fifth straight game on Sunday. The 16-year veteran continues to recover from tenosynovitis–or inflammation–in his left shin, in preparation of a deep L.A. playoff run.
One surprise is how well the Lakers have done in his absence. L.A. has won 4-of-5 games without Kobe as of Sunday. This includes an impressive 103-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Friday and an overtime win over Dallas 112-108 on Sunday. This leaves L.A. third in their conference and first in their division.
"(Winning) doesn't put as much pressure on us to try and get him back, but in the same breath, we've obviously made the playoffs," Laker’s head coach Mike Brown said. "So if it were a case where he needed to come back and it had something to do with him not being as healthy going into the playoffs, even if we took it on the chin a couple of times we'd still sit him out."
Kobe will clearly be the integral part in any Laker playoff run with his NBA leading 28.1 points per game this year and his history of hitting clutch shots down the stretch. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum have been playing outstanding ball in his absence, as Gasol went for 20 points and 10 rebounds against Dallas and Bynum went for 23 points and 16 rebounds in the same contest. They’ve even found support from their new acquisition Ramon Sessions who dropped in 22 points and dished out five assists in their overtime victory of the Mavs.
L.A. fans have good reason to be optimistic looking forward to a playoff run with a fresh Kobe and the rest of the team stepping it up. The rest of the Western Conference better be prepared for a Laker team still stocked full of quality talent, full of fresh health and who are playing well together at just the right time.
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