Bryant struggled as the Lakers continued their six-game road trip with a 101-85 loss to the Miami Heat on Monday. Bryant was held to 16 points—one off his season low—on a season-worst 4-for-17 shooting from the field and 0-for-4 from 3-point range.
“You have to let it go,” said Bryant, one of the NBA’s top scorers at 27.3 points per game. “It was disappointing, but we have two more games on this trip. It’s a long season. We are 18-10. Now it is time to move on.”
Since scoring 53 and 45 points in back-to-back games, Bryant has been held below his season average in all four games on this trip. He’s averaged 20.0 points and shot 36.3 percent during that span.
However, Los Angeles is 2-2 on the road swing, and the difference may be with Bryant’s supporting cast. In the two victories, at least five Lakers scored in double figures and the team went a combined 20-of-41 (48.8 percent) from 3-point range. In two losses, the team was 8-for-42 (19.0 percent) from beyond the arc and only two Lakers besides Bryant scored in double digits.
Ronny Turiaf (13 points) and Luke Walton (10 points) were the only other Lakers joining Bryant in double figures on Christmas. Los Angeles shot 39.2 percent from the field—their second-lowest mark of the season.
“I told my coaches at halftime that I thought I would stay in the locker room and watch ‘A Christmas Carol’ and they could go out and do the rest of this game the way we were playing out there,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “I did not feel we were right from the opening tap in this game.”
The pressure for Bryant to put up big numbers increased after second-leading scorer Lamar Odom (17.5 ppg) was lost on Dec. 12 for up to six weeks with a sprained right knee. The Lakers are 3-4 since Odom was injured.
Bryant, though, has never needed to score too much for Los Angeles to beat Orlando. The Lakers have won 13 of the last 15 meetings and Bryant has scored more than 30 points in just four of them, two of which were the Lakers’ only losses.
The Lakers have won the last three meetings as Bryant’s averaged 24.0 points.
The Magic, however, did have plenty of trouble stopping another of the league’s biggest stars in their most recent game. They were outscored 19-18 by LeBron James in the fourth quarter on Saturday while blowing a late lead in an 86-83 loss to Cleveland.
Orlando (17-12) will try to avoid its second three-game losing streak this month. The Magic still lead the Southeast Division despite losing eight of 12 since their 13-4 start.
Dwight Howard matched his season average with 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in Saturday’s loss. He’s averaged only 13.2 points over the last seven games after averaging 24.3 in a three-game stretch from Dec. 6-9.
Howard has averaged only 8.3 points in four meetings with the Lakers.
His recent scoring slump and nagging injuries to Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson have contributed to Orlando scoring more than 90 points just three times in its last 12 games. The Magic are near the bottom of the league in scoring with 92.7 points per game.
Nelson, averaging 12.8 points and a team-high 3.8 assists, scored 22 in a 117-108 win over Golden State on Dec. 22 in his return after missing four games with a thigh injury. He only had five points on 1-of-8 shooting in Saturday’s loss.
Turkoglu, averaging 9.8 points, has missed the last eight games and is day-to-day with a sprained ankle.