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L.A.'s offense has hit a higher gear by using their star shooting guard as a facilitator rather than a scorer. Can they make it three in a row against a dangerous New Orleans team beginning to hit its stride?
Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks. With the Lakers' season on the line, Kobe Bryant embraced the role of a distributor, leading L.A. to consecutive home wins over the Jazz and the Thunder.
After averaging 14 assists and 3 turnovers in those two wins, he even jokingly called himself "Kobe Johnson."
With Dwight Howard and Steve Nash still not 100% and Pau Gasol struggling with his role in Mike D'Antoni's offense, Kobe is the only Lakers star comfortable getting his own shot at any time. By embracing a more pass-first role, he allows everyone else to get going offensively, which, in turn, improves the Lakers defensively by cutting down on the number of turnovers and transition points allowed.
Over at Silver Screen And Roll, SB Nation's Lakers blog, they have a look at how the L.A. players have adjusted to their new roles in the last two games.
On Tuesday, the Lakers will try to keep their new-found momentum going against the Hornets, who have won 8 of their last 12 games after starting the season 7-25. That stretch has coincided with the return of Eric Gordon, whom they signed to a max deal in the offseason, from knee surgery.
Gordon is still rounding into shape but is already averaging 16 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds a game, and he gives New Orleans another offensive weapon on the perimeter. As a result, Kobe may have to dig deep on both sides of the ball on Tuesday.
At The Hive, SB Nation's Hornets blog, has a look at how Gordon has played since coming back and what he means for the franchise's future.
Just as intriguing is the match-up in the front-court, where No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis will square off against Howard and Gasol. Davis is averaging 12 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals a game on 52% shooting, but the Lakers will be one of the only front-lines he sees who won't be overwhelmed by his length.
On the Lakers side of things, another storyline worth watching will be the return of backup point guard Steve Blake, who has played in only 7 games this season due to a groin injury. Blake gives L.A. another ball-handler and could help them solidify their bench, which has been a glaring weakness for most of the year.