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|Kobe Bryant breaks all the statistical rules, and still finds a way to win championships.|
The Lakers are 13-3 when somebody other than Bryant leads the team in scoring. That's a winning percentage of .811. After Tuesday, the Lakers are 30-11 when Bryant leads the team in scoring. That's a .731 winning percentage. Simple math, right? Furthermore, remember the 30-point benchmark for Bryant? There are point totals for Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom to indicate success for Los Angeles, but unlike with Bryant, when Gasol and Odom surpass their scoring marks, it only helps the team's success. The Lakers are 25-4 (.862) when Gasol scores 14 or more points and are 20-3 (.870) when Odom scores 10 or more. There are two extreme stats associated with Bryant's scoring we also should consider. L.A. is 9-1 when he scores 15 or fewer points (including the games he missed) and is 10-1 when he scores 35 or more points. Explaining the low end is easy. We know that L.A. fared well without him, going 4-1, and as for the other five wins when Bryant was relatively quiet, two were blowouts in which he hardly played in the fourth quarter, and the other three were games when he was really feeling his injuries and the team stepped up in his stead. Explaining the high end basically is agreeing that, as one of the elite scorers ever to play, when Bryant is hot, he can pretty much single-handedly lead the team to a win. The Lakers were 6-0 in last year's postseason when Bryant scored 35-plus points, too. So there's nothing wrong with the team feeding Bryant when he's locked in. It all comes down to the in-between. All the numbers won't mean anything if Bryant's brain is slow to compute he is taking too many shots on a night when he just doesn't quite have it. It comes down to his recognition. If Bryant believed in the power of all this statistical analysis, he wouldn't have had a 40-point game on 59.3 percent shooting against the Houston Rockets in the playoffs last season with Shane Battier, the "no-stats All-Star," using statistically dictated defense on him. While we're watching Bryant mesh back in with the Lakers for these last 26 games before the postseason, the point isn't to have a sheet ready to fill in with three check boxes next to "Kobe Bryant < 30 points"; "Pau Gasol > 14 points"; and "Lamar Odom > 10 points" with a big "= WIN" box ready to check off if all three are filled. Probably the most dramatic moment of the Lakers' season was Bryant's buzzer-beater against the Miami Heat. It was the first of Bryant's slew of game winners this season -- those against the Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics and, of course, Memphis, would follow -- and it came in a game in which Bryant scored 33 points. It was in the no-man's land of his scoring totals because L.A. does so well when he scores under 30 and so well when he scores over 35, and he took 25 shots to get there. But it won the game and encapsulated everything Bryant brings to the team. How many other players in the league make that shot? If you really want to question how the Lakers are with Bryant back in the lineup, don't analyze his final line in the box score but rather observe what he's doing. Watch to see how Bryant feeds the post in the first half. Watch to see how much he involves Gasol in the second half. Watch to see how many times he skips the pass to the open man in the corner for the shot, the way he did the last time L.A. played in Memphis when he found Ron Artest instead of pulling up for the near impossible attempt on his own. The numbers can say what they want, but Bryant will have the last word. Alok Pattani of ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report. Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.