Pivot Points: Lakers’ Heart Can’t Conceal Absence of Kobe Bryant

The Los Angeles Lakers lost a game against the Boston Celtics on Thursday night that they very well could have won. During the continued absence of Kobe Bryant, this defeat should serve as lesson No. 1 for those who claim the team is better without him.

Yes, it's true the Lakers have performed above expectations since Bryant has been sidelined, blitzing opponents in each of the previous four games, but this game against a quality opponent clearly illustrates how valuable Bryant is to the defending champs.

Please disregard L.A. point guard Derek Fisher's futile attempt at the buzzer, which by the way was a made-for-Bryant moment, because that's not even the most instructive aspect of this loss. Instead look to the other end of the floor for irrefutable proof of Bryant's importance to the Lakes title aspirations. Celtics guard Ray Allen's offensive performance begged to be met with the defensive tenacity that Bryant consistently brings to his position.

Allen, who has visibly lost a step in recent years, seemed invigorated by Bryant's absence, scoring 24 points. No Laker in uniform was up to the task of defending him.

Allen continuously exposed the Lakers and their attempts to adjust only opened up the floor for teammates. When Shannon Brown switched to Allen then Rajon Rondo carved up the porous perimeter defense. Without the ability to stop the Celtics' guards at the top of the key or on the wings, the Lakers were victimized by repeated forays to the rim.

Surely, Bryant's defense would have been a welcome sight for Left Coast fans. Other than the aforementioned defensive deficiencies, the Lakers stood toe-to-toe with the physical Celtics.

Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum were dominant in the paint and Ron Artest played inspired basketball at both ends of the floor, providing key resistance to Paul Pierce, and making tough plays in the offensive game.

In an even contest, the di...

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