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Kobe Bryant hit his only shot that really mattered, then celebrated by slapping hands with Justin Timberlake. In the closing seconds of a Game 7 playoff win, the stars were aligning in Los Angeles once again, just like old times.
Except this was a first-round playoff series against a seriously less talented opponent. And these aren’t anything like old times.
The Lakers used to swagger through the playoffs with an attitude, mostly because Bryant would always seem to find a way to make them win. Now, after a rout at the hands of Oklahma City in Game 1 of the conference semifinals, even Bryant may not have anything left in his bag of tricks to use against the Thunder.
He got them past the Denver Nuggets by finally getting Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to play hard. That worked for one night, but the Lakers won’t be long for these playoffs if Bryant is forced to babysit his teammates every game.
He was smiling after the win at the Staples Center, happy to see his daughters waiting for him in the hallway afterward. That was in sharp contrast to the game before in Denver, when Bryant played despite flu-like symptoms, only to watch his teammates barely go through the motions.
Asked after that game whether his teammates had the same heart he did on the court, Bryant didn’t dance around the subject.
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