Kobe Bryant finds balance as scorer, distributor

February, 27, 2013
2/27/13
6:34
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Black Mamba has already shed his skin several times this season as Kobe Bryant transformed from the league's leading scorer to one of its most effective passers.

In the last three games, Bryant seems to have finally settled into his ideal version of himself to help this Los Angeles Lakers team win.

Bryant is averaging 35.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists on 59.7 percent shooting in his last three games, as the Lakers have gone 2-1.

"I think I just found a balance," Bryant said after practice Wednesday. "I think as a team we found a balance in terms of me being able to keep them involved but still being able to find my rhythm. I told you guys I wasn't really too concerned with my scoring, I would be able to find a rhythm and do both and I've done that."

Just like when Bryant made the switch to "Magic Mamba" and channeled Magic Johnson as he doled out 39 assists over the course of three games in late January and L.A. went 3-0, his recent uptick in scoring wasn't preceded by a planned-out discussion with his coach.

"The conversation is always the same, 'Be aggressive,' " Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He has to read the situation and how he feels physically and how they're playing him. There's a lot of things that go into it. It-s hard to pre-determine how to play, but during the game you have to understand when you want to be aggressive to the hole or aggressive to passing and trying not to blur the two. It's not the easiest thing in the world, but I think he’s doing a good job."

Steve Nash, who has had to shift in reverse with Bryant -- going from distributor to scorer, instead of the other way around -- said he figured Bryant would return to his scoring self eventually.

"The odds were that it was coming because he hadn't made his shots for a while, which is very uncharacteristic," Nash said. "Some poor souls were going to take the brunt of that Murphy's Law."

Bryant has scored 12 field goals or more in each of the last three games. You have to go back some 23 games to early January for the last time Bryant had double-digit field goals made in consecutive games (15 against the Clippers in a loss on Jan. 4 and 11 against Denver in a loss on Jan. 6).

Bryant says he is just reacting to how teams are trying to defend him.

"It's really just predicated on the defense, what they do," Bryant said. "They really just have to pick and choose. There's some halves where they stay home on shooters and I do a lot of scoring, other times they have to collapse on me a great deal and I do more playmaking. It just really depends on the defense."

Bryant's efficiency has also increased, as he shot better than 50 percent from the field in each of the last three games after only doing so three out of his previous 11 games before that.

"We're all trying to do whatever it takes to win," Dwight Howard said. "We have to find ways to sacrifice our game and also find ways to be aggressive and push the pace. He's doing both."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0