I am a few days late, but I could not pass up the opportunity to write about the Los Angeles Lakers 118-116 overtime victory over the Toronto Raptors last Friday night. It is not often an early March NBA game stands out unless something amazing happened. In this case, the amazing was no other than 17 year veteran Kobe Bryant putting on a show for the ages.
Bryant has had a history of tormenting the Raptors. You need look no further than his 81 point game against the Raptors in 2006. While this performance was not as earth shattering as the 81 point game, it may have been just as impressive. The Lakers are a team battling for a playoff spot. They could not and cannot afford to lose a home game to a well below.500 club like the Raptors. Unfortunately for the Lakers, that is exactly what they were doing. They trailed by as many as 15, but closed the gap to 105-100 with 1:40 remaining in the game.
Enter Kobe Bryant.
Well, he was there the whole time leading the Lakers comeback, but this is where his true heroics began. A difficult three pointer brought the Lakers within two. Alan Anderson scored to put the Raptors up 107-103. After a few possessions, Bryant struck with a huge corner three to narrow the Raptors lead to one. After two Kyle Lowry free throws, the Lakers had eight second to hit a three to tie the game. Bryant received the ball and drilled his third three in a row. The game went to overtime after Rudy Gay missed at the buzzer. In overtime, Steve Nash hit a big three to tie the game at 115. Bryant channeled vintage Kobe with a two handed dunk to put the Lakers up for good.
It was a remarkable win for the Lakers. Two nights earlier they had rallied from a 25 point deficit against the New Orleans Hornets. In that game, Bryant had 42 points and 12 assists. Against the Raptors, Bryant had 41 points and 12 assists making him the second oldest player to score 40 plus points and dish out 10 plus assists in a game. For those keeping track, the oldest is Larry Bird.
This game was just amazing to watch live. The Lakers looked finished. It did not seem to be getting better because every time Bryant hit a three, the Raptors responded save the game tying bucket. That being said, every shot Bryant hit was a difficult three that just left you shaking your head in amazement. He was not going to let the Lakers lose the game. It was a remarkable show.
The Lakers are now in the thick of the playoff hunt. It still remains to be seen if they can make the playoffs. If the Lakers do make the playoffs, none of the other teams will want to see them in the first round. I'm not saying the Lakers would win a series, but they will be a very difficult out and could alter future matchups based on what they take out of their first round opponents. The West is shaking up to be all the more interesting.