On Thursday night in Miami, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers will be looking to build on their best stretch of basketball, particularly on defense, of the season that has produced an NBA-best 8-0 record since the All-Star break.
Prior to L.A.’s practice on Wednesday afternoon at Miami’s American Airlines Arena, many of the questions directed towards the Lakers dealt more with the Heat’s recent struggles that L.A.’s recent success, with Miami dropping five consecutive games to fall two games behind Los Angeles in the loss column.
Bryant acknowledged that it’s “always tough” to go through such streaks, especially under a microscope, then explained how the Lakers have dealt with such dry spells.
“For us it’s just our unity and execution,” he said. “We don’t really over dramatize the situation, it kind of is what it is. The way Phil (Jackson) coaches is always about the game. He’s not really a ‘rah rah’ kind of guy and neither are we, so it’s all about execution, mistakes that were made and trying to minimize those mistakes.”
But the Heat and the Lakers are pretty different in a few ways, one more physical and one more mental.
Physically, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom man the paint for L.A. against a Heat team that has struggled to get interior production on either end. Mentally, this Lakers’ team has had the benefit of going through three consecutive runs to the Finals, and can draw upon that experience from their own recent past all the while under the guise of an 11-time champion coach in Phil Jackson.
Bryant provided alternate explanations, as well.
“I think the difference between us is we all know what our roles are,” he continued. “Everything is cemented for us, and they are still trying to figure that out, which makes it a little tougher … What (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade) do in essence in their careers is pretty much the same thing, so it’s just trying to figure out how to adjust.”
A reporter followed up with a question about how the Heat have been discussing their attempts at getting used to the bull’s-eye with which Bryant and the Lakers have dealt for several years now.
Bryant’s response was vintage Black Mamba.
“I don’t know,” he concluded. “I’m still trying to kill people*.”