Those the things Kobe Bryant does
As we did the other night from Oakland, here’s a game story on Friday’s Raptors-Lakers thriller.
LOS ANGELES – Kobe being Kobe.
With three incredible shots – each more difficult and significant than the previous -- Kobe Bryant had a couple of minutes for the ages at the Staples Centre on Friday, basically single-handedly carrying the Los Angeles Lakers to a 118-116 overtime victory over the Raptors.
It was a tour de force from one of the game’s great closers and no matter what the Raptors did, it wasn’t good enough.
Bryant hit a three-pointer that was nothing special with 1:41 left in the fourth quarter to carve a five-point Raptor lead to two.
Bryant hit a three-pointer practically falling out of bounds in the corner with 29.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter to carve a four-point Raptor lead to one.
Bryant hit a three-pointer while being double-teamed and the game on truly on the line with 5.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter to carve a three-point Raptors lead to nothing.
Sense a theme?
Three shots, three shocking, clutch, game-deciding shots that most mortals would not make.
“That’s what he does,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “He makes great shots and that’s why he’s a great player.”
Bryant shouldn’t have had the chance to get off the game-tying three, however.
With the Lakers inbounding the ball at midcourt with 8.4 seconds left, the basic basketball play was to foul whoever caught the ball as soon as he caught, give up two free throws to get possession back and try to run out the game.
But Amir Johnson couldn’t get his hands on Bryant, Rudy Gay didn’t close out quickly enough to get anywhere near him and Bryant did his business.
“On the catch,” Johnson said of the time he was supposed to foul. “But I missed him and he made a tough shot.”
For Casey, another mental breakdown with a game on the line was as frustrating as it’s been all season.
“It was a valiant effort and it’s to the point now where you’re playing for the playoffs, you have to put the mental part into it,” he said. “Our guys are fighting, scratching their behinds off. Now we have to understand the intensity and the speed of the game and how much thought you have to put into the game and execution at the same time you’re playing hard.”
Bryant, who finished with 41 points, also had four points in the overtime as did another wily old veteran in Steve Nash.
But Nash, astonishingly given his history, missed one of two free throws with 6.6 seconds left that gave the Raptors one last chance to tie.
But on a night when he couldn’t hit the ocean from a boat, Rudy Gay missed a prayer at the buzzer, capping an 0-for-4 overtime and a 7-for-26 night.
“Did I like them?” Gay said of his looks. “They didn’t go in, so I guess not. I don’t like to miss.”
The reason Gay was taking all the shots was because Bryant was taking DeMar DeRozan out of the picture with some great individual defence. Left to operate against the likes of Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake, DeRozan had 28 points on 10-for-18 shooting but he didn’t score in the overtime and had just four points in the fourth quarter with Bryant covering him.
“(He) just tried to bother me, make my shot tough,” said DeRozan. “I knew I wasn’t going to get anything easy. He was just trying to get me off the post and I just tried to be aggressive.”