Pivot Points: The Lakers Find Life in Their Kobe-Less Existence

No Kobe Bryant, no Andrew Bynum, no problem. The Los Angeles Lakers won their second straight game without their injured leader, and did it in convincing fashion—disposing of the San Antonio Spurs 101-89 on Monday night.

In the absence of their hobbled superstar, the Lakers are learning to depend on each other—and the results have been encouraging, as each member of the supporting cast has been forced to place faith in their own talents.

In Portland, it was Ron Artest leading a group of six Lakers in double figures, as Los Angeles ended a losing streak which dated back to 2005. And against the Spurs it was Pau Gasol delivering a virtuoso performance that was again backed up by the strength of his teammates.

It is accepted as truth that the Lakers have the most talented roster in the NBA, but that fact is sometimes lost in the midst of the constant scrutiny of the media and fans which seems to coalesce around Bryant.

Gasol's 21 point, 19 rebound, eight assist, and five block performance served as a reminder that the Lakers are much more than a one man show, and when you throw in the performances of Lamar Odom and Artest the point is driven home.

It should come as no surprise, since all three aforementioned players possess superstar qualities, but they often find themselves leaning on Bryant to bail them out of tough situations.

And even though Los Angeles has maintained a decent margin for error in the Western Conference, there have been whispers that Kobe's play, especially since being injured, has been detrimental to the team.

In fairness, it did appear Kobe may have pressed a little in order to understand the limitations of his various injuries, but it would be ridiculous to assume his play was in any way damaging to his team.

Bryant is a passionate and aggressive competitor, and until recently his teammates had failed to reciprocate those qualities. When th...

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