by Marcel Mutoni@ marcel_mutoni

It’s almost as though they don’t want to make the Playoffs, but Kobe Bryant continues to forcefully drag the Los Angeles Lakers along.

They were on the brink of disaster against the lowly New Orleans Hornets last night, with their hopes of a postseason berth dimming, and that’s when Kobe took matters into his own hands. Twenty-three fourth quarter points later (for a total of 30), and Bryant had helped give the Lakers life once again with a 104-96 win.

Mike D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant both admitted that the team coasted and tried to pace themselves against the Hornets, a philosophy that nearly cost them in the end.

Per the LA Daily News and LA Times:

“The first half, collectively our energy wasn’t there defensively,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Overall they get 96 points, not bad defensively but we just started off slow defensively, let them get out of the gates and gave them hope and now we expend a little bit more energy than what we should have. We’ve done it all year. We play around a little bit, see if we can coast for a while, and maybe it will work and then we get our backs against the wall and then we have to play twice as hard to try to get a win.”

And in the second half, Bryant took on Hornets guard Eric Gordon, who had 15 points in the first but finished with 22. Two of Bryant’s five steals came off Gordon in the final period. “I really was just trying to pace myself,” Bryant said. “I know fatigue comes in when you play so many minutes. So I really just tried to lay back and manage the game and turn it on at the right time.” [...] “It’s about conserving some energy,” Bryant said. “I know we got a tough one [Wednesday] night [at Portland]. The more I can kinda lay in the weeds, the better.” Then he added, “This is supposed to be a light year for me.”

severely short-handed Blazers team awaits the Lakers in Portland tonight, where they will try to increase their slim 0.5 game lead over the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final Playoff spot in the West. It’s probably safe to say we can expect more coasting and energy conservation from LA.

Kobe Bryant says he isn’t worried about playing so many minutes this late in the season—and it’s not like he has much of a choice in the matter, anyway. He views it as a necessary sacrifice for a chance to reach the postseason, where the Lakers can get a fresh start:

“I’m not worried about the summer,” Bryant said. “What I’m trying to do is get us in the postseason where we start the f– over. You know how you play that really bad video game where you’re just really sucking it up and you want to hit the reset button.” [...] “We need to get to the playoffs and hit the reset button and start over,” Bryant said. “The first part of the season was atrocious for us. But lately we’ve been doing pretty good so you just kind of want to hit the reset button and start from scratch.”