It was a perfect test for a young point guard who had never been to the playoffs.
The media was out in full force, the players were chippy and the crowd may have reached unsafe decibel levels as the Lakers and Clippers battled for superiority in the Western Conference standings and bragging rights in the city.
When Ramon Sessions found himself in a critical position late in the game, he knew he had found the moment to show his teammates that he belongs.
The Lakers had blown a 15-point lead and were up by only two points at 106-104 with less than a minute remaining. Sessions responded with one of the biggest plays in his career. He boldly wove past the defense and made a floater.
“Kobe [Bryant] had set a good screen for me and I saw the basket kind of open up,” Sessions said. “I knew DeAndre Jordan was going to try and challenge it and I just tried to get it up as strong and as fast as I could.”
That play helped the Lakers to a 113-108 victory but, perhaps more importantly, it gave his teammates a deeper trust in his abilities.
When Bryant was asked if the play increased his confidence in Sessions, he said, “Well, yeah.”
“He made big big plays,” Bryant said. “It’s tough for teams to really game plan now because they have to deal with Sessions, they have to guard him. He’s a legitimate scorer.”
Said Andrew Bynum: “Oh my God. At the end it was amazing. He did exactly what guards are taught to do. He jumped into the shot blocker’s body and then finished. There was nothing [DeAndre Jordan] could do about it.”
When Sessions was acquired by the Lakers at the trade deadline, he knew he had a lot to prove. He was replacing five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher, a player who commanded the respect of Bryant and the team’s locker room.
“In this league, you don’t get that many opportunities, and this is a big one for me,” said Sessions, who had previously played for Milwaukee, Minnesota and Cleveland in his five-season career.
In his 11 games in the city of glitz and glamour, he’s averaged career-highs in both scoring (13.8) and rebounding (3.6). And against the Lakers’ newest rivals, he finished with 16 points on six-for-13 shooting and had eight assists, six rebounds and two steals.
“Intensity like that,” he said, “it brings the best out of you.”