The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder last night at the Ford Center 107-93. In a contest that started as a runaway victory, transformed into a close, competitive game, and ended as a routine victory fueled by another spectacular Kobe Bryant performance. Kobe finished with 36 points on 13-for-21 shooting, with 15 points coming in the final quarter. The Lakers started well enough, building a 10-point lead after the first quarter, extending the lead to 18 in the 2nd before finally settling for a 12-point lead going into halftime. But the Lakers came out flat in the third quarter and the Thunder, led by Kevin Durant (32 points, 10 rebounds) capitalized on this by out-rebounding them to the tune of 45-30. It didn’t help matters that Lamar Odom was in foul trouble throughout the contest limiting his newfound zeal for attacks to the basket for easy opportunities and offensive rebounds.
The OKC cut the lead down to two points in the 4th quarter with 9:17 left to play. Enter Bryant back into the contest who proceeded to knock down a 17-footer a mere three seconds later. Then he was fouled and connected on two free throws, hit a turnaround 14-foot fade-away, scored on a finger roll after spinning away from the defense in the post, splashed another 17-footer, hit another pair of free throws, then drove the lane in traffic, was fouled and appeared to sprain his ankle. Bryant spent a few agonizing seconds on the floor as he grabbed his ankle and toughed out the pain, and he quickly composed himself as he rose to his feet. Thoughts of his Nike contract and the advertising campaign featuring him selling ankle insurance in the form of his “low-top” kicks probably floated in-and-out of his mind. After a Phil Jackson time-out, Kobe came out of the huddle unfazed and apparently good to go. He sank one of two free throws, then later drove the lane for another layup, effectively knocking out the Thunder and any hope they had for a much needed victory. In that span of time, Kobe proved again why he is unquestionably, the best player and finisher in the NBA.
dEDGE Post Scriptum
Appreciate him now before it is too late. Don’t worry about his loyalty or his shot selection. Don’t criticize his passing or lack thereof. Don’t complain about the number of titles he has won, or hasn’t won alone. Never call him a quitter or a malcontent. Don’t listen to those who say that he is selfish and uncoachable. Instead praise his nightly heroics and how he makes us want more. Marvel at his awe inspiring performances not witnessed since the anointed one himself, Michael Jordan, ruled the NBA. Thank him for single-handedly placing the Los Angeles Lakers back on the map, back into relevance, and back onto sports talk radio across the country. Cherish how he silences the hometown crowd in every away arena, discourages the opposition and leaves their coaching staff scratching their heads. Remember him for what he is, the MVP, the Mamba, the most exciting and spectacular player on earth.