Bryant unhappy with performance
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant was running low on energy or interest on Monday, offering terse responses to questions about his finger ("It's fine") and his demeanor ("I don't know; I'm just moody today, I guess"), but his teammates were ready and willing to poke holes in the theory that all Bryant's injuries have made him lose a step.
"Just his threat alone, just him being on the court, guys stick to him," Lamar Odom said. "You can't leave him open. I'm not worried at all. He could explode for 55 [points] tomorrow and then you'll be like, 'Oh, that's Kobe.' Know what I mean? Kobe's the best."
Bryant has been far from his best shooting the ball recently. A 6-for-19 effort Sunday dropped his shooting total in his past four games to just 27-for-89 (30.3 percent). Derek Fisher thinks that Bryant merely needs to find his rhythm again because those four games he has played came over a period of 17 days because Bryant missed time to rest his fractured right index finger and alleviate swelling in his right knee.
"I don't care who you are, it's tough to be at your best when you aren't getting repetitions, you aren't getting those opportunities," Fisher said. "As time goes on, he'll be just fine. I'm definitely not ever worried about his ability to be effective."
Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson, who described Bryant as "subdued" Monday, said that Bryant's legs might have tired in the second half Sunday after playing 41 minutes, but maintained that his shooting guard still found ways to affect the game positively.
"He's initiating plays," Jackson said. "We're really running well out of what he does initiating things making opportunities for other people. His shot selection, I think he's had to narrow that down a little bit because he can't just elevate and get over people. He's got to be a little bit more selective on his shooting. I think he's not going to offer any excuses; I don't think he will."
Pau Gasol, the team's second-leading scorer in the regular season at 18.3 points per game, scored 19 points on 14 shot attempts in Game 1 as opposed to Bryant's 21 points on 19 attempts.
"We have so many weapons," Gasol said. "We have so many guys that can hurt you and so many mismatches on the floor. It's important that we utilize all our weapons. There was a lot of balance. I think all the starters shot over 10 shots if I'm not mistaken. I think that's a good stat that you want to see on a regular basis."
Fisher downplayed the idea that Bryant's shooting has been so spotty that he's missing shots other players on the team would easily make.
"Every team game plans for where he likes to get the ball, what he likes to do, so it's not like he's shooting wide-open shots out there," Fisher said.
Artest on Durant duty
The Lakers held Kevin Durant to just 24 points on 7-for-24 (29.2 percent) shooting Sunday, well below his league-leading average of 30.1 points per game and healthy 47.6 percent regular-season shooting percentage.
But Ron Artest doesn't want any credit for it.
"I have not a clue," Artest said when asked whether his defensive presence was the reason for Durant's poor shooting. "I don't think I did anything special."
Bryant joked that Artest's defense wasn't anything special last year either when Kobe averaged 27.4 points per game against Houston in the Western Conference semifinals with Artest on him, but added that Artest's weight-shedding running regimen was the reason for his success.
"I think this year, he's probably in better shape than he was last year," Bryant said. "He dropped pounds, so I think he's quicker laterally and he's faster. That's why I think he's capable of staying on guys like Durant and chasing all those guys."
Gasol said that Durant and the Thunder also might have been a little tentative because it was the first playoff game in the franchise's history in Oklahoma City, but, "the second game, those nerves won't be there and they're going to be more effective coming out of the gates."
Jackson expected his coaching counterpart, Scott Brooks, to develop new schemes to help jump-start his star's offense.
"They're obviously going to try to free up Durant," Jackson said. "I think they're going to try to get him loose and try to work some things where the screens or the activity of the team creates more open looks for him."
Bynum bounces back
Before anybody on the Lakers could get truly excited by Andrew Bynum's valiant 13-point, 12-rebound effort in Game 1 after a layoff of nearly a month to rehabilitate a strained left Achilles tendon, they wanted to wait and see how the 7-footer's body would respond to the heavy workload the next day.
Count Bynum as one person who enjoyed going to work Monday because he continued to feel pain-free.
"My Achilles feels fine, nothing happened there," Bynum said. "Every now and again, a couple movements, I feel something, but nothing too serious."
Bynum played 31 minutes in Game 1 after Jackson originally had set the bar at 24 for his 22-year old center.
"I'm encouraged that today he didn't have any ill effects from playing that many minutes," Bryant said. "He's fine. Wasn't limping around or anything like that."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.