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The LAkers Story: Kobe Helps Lakers Clinch a Playoff Spot

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There was a strange look in Kobe Bryant’s face during Friday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns: It was a look of defeat. Kobe seemed tired and listless, playing only 17 points in their 93-85 loss. We shouldn’t waste too much sympathy on a multi-millionaire, but it’s been hard not to feel for Kobe, who has been playing some of the best basketball of his career without getting any consistent help from the rest of his team.

But for tonight’s game against the Seattle Supersonics, Kobe was back as determined as ever, carrying the Lakers to a 109-98 win with his 10th 50-point game of the season. A few changes may have helped. Center Kwame Brown returned after sitting out the last six games with a sprained ankle and - in the 81st game of the regular season - Coach Phil Jackson suddenly changed his starting lineup, using Jordan Farmar as starting point guard instead of Smush Parker, who has been a huge disappointment this season.

With this win, the Lakers clinch a playoff spot – either 7th or 8th - meaning they’ll meet Phoenix or the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs. Either way, it’ll be a tough road against either the number one or number two team in the Western Conference. The Lakers have just not been able to gel as a team this year. As Phil Jackson commented in his post-game interview, “We’re not settled on what we have to do as a team; we’re still searching for the right combination.” For Lakers fans, it’s best to start focusing on the future and on whether the Lakers can get Kobe some real help for next season.

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AP photo by Gus Ruelas