Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always risky making snap judgments regarding the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers, a team that has been wildly inconsistent despite their mix of superstars.

However, with a convincing 105-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday afternoon, the Lakers appear to be turning a corner under head coach MikeD’Antoni.

The Lakers’ victory was their second in a row, coming two days after a 102-84 drubbing of the Utah Jazz. In fact, according to ESPN Stats & Info, Sunday’s win was the Lakers’ first over one of the Western Conference’s top four teams this season:

What was so convincing about the Lakers’ most recent performance, you ask?

Well, it all starts and ends with Kobe Bryant, the volume scorer who has, in the blink of an eye, redefined his game to make it more conducive to playing with superstars like Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.

Just like the team’s previous contest against Utah, Bryant came out looking to pass first, using the Thunder’s preconceived notions about his score-first nature to fool the defending Western Conference champions.

With Bryant looking to pass, things appeared to flow much more smoothly. A trend throughout the game, Kobe took advantage of the Thunder by employing the drive-and-kick to lure in defenders.

By driving and kicking from the baseline, Kobe forced the Thunder defense to collapse under the basket. That allowed him to feed shooters in the corners or an open Pau Gasol cutting through the lane, securing easy buckets that were previously hard to come by.

Hardwood Paroxysm’s Noam Schiller notes that Kobe may even be more lethal when he’s looking to pass first:

Bryant’s selflessness was evident early on, as the Mamba totaled just five first-half shots, compared to six assists. Kobe finished with 14 dimes for the game, a number which ESPN Stats & Info notes is quite unusual for the 15-time All-Star:

 Although there was more to this game than just Kobe’s performance, it’s worth noting that it only took him two games to adapt. Kobe has always possessed this ability to be selfless, he’s just never employed it on a consistent basis before.

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