Kobe Bryant played through a nasty illness against the Nuggets in Game 6 Thursday night, and it was both hilarious and a little uncomfortable to watch. You could see his intestines moving just with his facial expressions. But obviously, Kobe is Kobe, and he played through it, and actually had one of his most efficient games of the playoffs. He was 13-23 from the field for 31 points, with 4 assists.
The Lakers' problem was not Kobe. Andrew Bynum went 4-11 from the field with just 11 points, and Pau Gasol was even worse, going 1-10 for 3 points. So if you're wondering how the Lakers could possibly get blown out with Kobe playing that well, look no further than his two sidekicks, and how badly they played.
Kobe noticed, too. He took a not-so-subtle post-game shot at his teammates when he said of Metta World Peace's impending return, "He's the one guy that I can rely on night-in and night-out to compete and play with that intensity."
Other times he was even more direct. When reporters asked if his teammates matched his heart in Game 6, he said, "No. Of course they didn't." And, uhh ... he's not wrong.
It was ugly all the way around, and coming into Game 7, the Lakers have now been badly outplayed at home and on the road, wasting a gutsy effort from Kobe, looking completely apathetic the whole way. As Kobe said afterward, it's time for a wake-up call.
“I talked with Pau a little bit after the game and I’ll speak with Andrew as well. It’s one of those things where psychologically you have to put yourself in a predicament, in a position, where you have no other option but to perform. You have to emotionally put your back to the wall and kind of trick yourself, so to speak, to feel that there’s no other option but to perform and to battle, when you have that, when you have that mindset, your performance shines through, your talent shines through. It doesn’t matter what the defense does. It doesn’t matter because you’re emotionally at a level that is above that. That is the mindset that they have to put themselves in.”
Game 6 reminded us that Kobe's still capable of pulling off miracles in the NBA Playoffs, but as his teammates sleepwalked through a 30-point loss, it felt like 2006 all over again. And we were reminded of another truism: If he doesn't get help from his teammates, it won't matter how amazing Kobe is. In Saturday's Game 7 and beyond. Nobody knows that better than Kobe.