Kobe Bryant: Can the L.A. Lakers Afford to Sacrifice His Offense for Defense?

The Los Angeles Lakers evened their first-round playoff series against the New Orleans Hornets at one game apiece on Wednesday night, but if you didn't see the game, that would be hard to believe by glancing at the stat sheet.

Lakers stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol shot a combined 5-of-20 from the field for a grand total of 19 points, and yet the Lakers were still able to walk out of Staples Center with a 87-78 victory. How did the Lakers accomplish this?

In a word, defense.

The Lakers only shot 44 percent from the field as a team, but they held the Hornets to 39 percent from the field while employing a tight, suffocating brand of defense.

Coach Phil Jackson couldn't afford to let Chris Paul ravage the Lakers as he had in Game 1 with his 33-point, 14-assist performance, so he designated the task of defending Paul to Bryant as he has done in the past.

Bryant did an admirable job of guarding Paul at the point of attack, and it was a total team effort as almost any Laker who saw a minute of action found themselves in front of Paul at one time or another.

Paul responded well to the challenge, scoring 20 points and dishing out nine assists, but the Lakers defense did its job by limiting Paul's overall impact. Lakers fans can thank Bryant for spear-heading the effort.

Bryant understood that Paul was really the only player on the Hornets roster who could hurt the Lakers and his sole focus in Game 2 was to prevent that from happening.

In the process, Bryant reminded everyone what type of individual defender he can be when motivated, and he didn't mind sacrificing his offense to do it.

Andrew Bynum dominated in the post with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and newly crowned NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom added 16 points and seven rebounds, but Gasol was once again largely absent on the score sheet.

Gasol matched his Game 1 total of eight points on 2-o...

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