Bryant plays well, but Lakers fall to 0-2 with loss to Phoenix

first_imgPHOENIX >> The shades of Kobe Bryant’s former self emerged with each pull-up jumper, drive to the basket and foul shot he made with dependable accuracy.But as they showed in their 119-99 loss on Wednesday to the Phoenix Suns at U.S. Airways Center, the Lakers’ success this season will not solely correlate with Bryant’s. His 31 points on 11-of-25 shooting and 7-of-7 mark from the foul line featured fluid movement, increased athleticism and sharp fundamentals, a comforting sign after he played in only six games last season because of injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee. Bryant also hit the 30-point plateau for the first time since shattering his Achilles 18 months ago.“Kobe’s the least of my worries,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said.That’s because the Lakers offered little else as they dropped to 0-2 for the third time in the past four seasons. The Lakers may have spent most of training camp stressing defense after ranking last season toward the bottom of the NBA in most statistical categories. But the Lakers still conceded plenty to Phoenix from 3-point range (16 of 32), points in the paint (36) and double-digit scoring by Isaiah Thomas (23 points), Marcus Morris (21), Goran Dragic (18), Eric Bledsoe (16) and Markieff Morris (12). “We’re not a big 3-point shooting team,” Bryant said. “So we can’t afford to give up 16.”The Lakers also cannot afford to have an offense solely centered on Bryant. Jordan Hill, Carlos Boozer, Wesley Johnson, Jeremy Lin and Ronnie Price shot a combined 10 of 32 from the field. Boozer committed eight of the Lakers’ 13 turnovers.“He’s more than a willing passer,” Scott said of Bryant. “It’s just that guys have to quit watching.”Both Scott and Bryant took particular aim at Lin, who has shot 3 of 10 in the Lakers’ first two games. Scott said Lin played with “indecision” while Bryant said he implored Lin to run the offense instead of him.“I told him that’s a big urban legend of me,” Bryant said. “I want to score. But that means coming off of picks, catching and shooting. You handle the ball and you run the show.” Lin sounded open toward making adjustments, but initially sounded skeptical of the commentary.“I didn’t feel like I was that hesitant,” Lin said. “I felt like when I had opportunities I was trying to attack. I’ll go and take a look at the film and see if that’s the case or not. In my mind, I thought I was assertive and trying to make plays.”Regardless, everything was mostly left to Bryant, whose frustration boiled over enough that he collected a technical foul for the second consecutive game. Bryant was whistled with 2:55 left in the third quarter, showing visible frustration for not being sent to the free-throw line after attacking the basket against multiple defenders. Bryant sounded much more at ease afterward.“In hindsight, the call is not a big deal,” Bryant said. “But getting your butt kicked a little bit, it’s only natural.”center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more