It’s never over for Lakers until Kobe says so
If the Lakers ever need incentive for whatever awaits them, it will be Tom Bialaszewski’s job to make it happen.
All the Lakers’ video coordinator needs to do is forward to the final seconds of Friday’s game against the Toronto Raptors and show everybody how Kobe Bryant went one on five.
Bryant’s dunk with 10.6 seconds left in overtime pushed the Lakers to an improbable 118-116 victory at Staples Center.
Bryant had 41 points and 12 assists, and the Lakers (32-31) moved above .500 for the first time since Nov. 20 and pulled within half a game of Utah (32-30) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Utah already won the tiebreaker, and it was way too early to even discuss such a thing, but this was a game the Lakers needed to win.
They did despite trailing by 15 in the second quarter. They did despite lousy defense most of the game. They did even though starting forwards Metta World Peace and Earl Clark combined for 11 points in 61 minutes.
They can all thank Bryant, who according to Elias Sports Bureau became the first Laker since Jerry West in 1970 to have back-to-back games with at least 40 points and 10 assists.
With the score tied at 115-115, Alan Anderson was guarding Bryant up top. He was quickly joined by seven-footer Aaron Gray, the Raptors again choosing to double-team Bryant.
So Bryant burst by both of them, moved past Kyle Lowry’s swat at the ball, and beat late-arriving forwards Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan for a dunk with 10.6 seconds to play.
“He’s hit some tough shots. He’s putting everything he’s got into it and we’re doing our best to help him out,” said Dwight Howard, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds.
It certainly wasn’t the first imprint Bryant made on the game, even though he had only 13 points with five minutes left in the third quarter.
He started a personal three-point barrage with 1:41 left in the fourth quarter, drilling one of the few successful “pump-fake, reset and drain as the shot clock expires” attempts to bring the Lakers within 105-103.
Then he made a three-pointer from the left corner with 29.3 seconds left in regulation. The Lakers were down one.
Of greatest importance, after Steve Blake inbounded from the right side, Bryant faked Amir Johnson into the air and beat DeRozan for another three-pointer from the left side with 5.5 seconds left to tie the score at 109-109.
It was on to overtime after Gay missed an 18-footer with 0.9 seconds left.
Said Howard: “I think Kobe, after a game like this, he should walk off in slow motion with the ‘Bad to the Bone’ song.”
Then, a few minutes later, as Bryant emerged from the trainer’s room, Howard started humming the guitar riff from the George Thorogood song.
“B-b-b-b-bad,” Howard added, smiling.
How is Bryant, 34, finding this energy this late in the season?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I honestly don’t know. I’m happy we won. But I’m not pleased. Nine turnovers.”
With the Jazz losing to Chicago a few minutes before tipoff, the Lakers came out playing like they really wanted that playoff spot.
They gave up 37 points in the first quarter and trailed by 12.
If Bryant had access to his phone, he could have hammered out “Lame” on his Twitter account. Or other four-letter words.
It appears the Lakers no longer like playing in the first half, yielding 71 points to Oklahoma City, 67 to New Orleans and 59 to Toronto. Bad trend. Almost costly too.
Toronto forward Andrew Bargnani sustained a strained right elbow in the first quarter and did not return, taking his 13 points a game with him. It almost didn’t matter.
DeRozan had 28 points and Anderson had 17 for Toronto. Gay also had 17, making only seven of 26 shots.
So the Lakers avoided getting swept this season by the Raptors (24-39).
Bryant made it happen. Again. It’s a trend the Lakers aren’t minding right about now.
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