Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Kobe's greatest playoff hits
49 points, 10 assists, 18-of-27 shooting, tons of smack talk and cockiness, and enough theatrics for a performance on Broadway - that was Kobe last night. And it got me to thinking: What is Kobe Bryant's greatest playoff performance? Well, I'll give you the choices to choose from; but I'm not into making lists really, so sorry. You'll have to decide for yourself.
(Note: I excluded Game 6 against Phoenix in 2006 because they lost the game, and Game 2 last year against Phoenix because it was the only game they won in the series. Those were my two cuts.)
6/4/00, Game 7, Western Conference Finals, Staples Center: Lakers 89, Portland 84
Kobe's line: 47 minutes, 25 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocks.
This was the game where the Lakers rallied from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter against Scottie, Sheed, and Co. to get back to the Finals for the first time since 1991. Portland did a better job of defending Shaq in that series that anybody ever did before he got old. Kobe led the team in points and had game-highs in boards, dishes, and blocks.
Highlight Reel: "The lob - to Shaq." - Bob Costas. As a Lakers fan, I am forever grateful to Costas for immortalizing that moment in Laker lore for me. Notable because of how badly Kobe fractured Scottie's ankle's at the top of the three-point line, and for how high Shaq got up to get to that ball. Back then, you could throw the ball practically to the moon and he would go up and get it. How times have changed.
6/14/00, Game 4, NBA Finals, Conseco Fieldhouse: Lakers 120, Pacers 118 OT
Kobe's line: 47 mins, 28 pts, 4 rebs, 5 asts, 2 blks, 14-27 shooting.
Shaq fouled out in OT with 36 and 21, leaving Kobe to save the day by scoring 8 of his 28 points in the extra period, and tipping in a missed shot by Brian Shaw for the game-winner. I watched the end of this game on a small-screen TV at El Cholo's.
5/13/01, Game 4, Western Conference Semifinals, Arco Arena: Lakers 119, Kings 113
Kobe's line: 48 mins, 48 pts, 16 rebs, 3 asts, 2 stls, 15-29 shooting.
Well, that stat line speaks for itself. I have the ESPN version of this game on tape, and let me tell ya...no 22 year-old player has ever been more polished offensively. Ever. LA gets it's second of three consecutive sweeps to start the playoffs.
5/19/01, Game 1, Western Conference Finals, Alamodome: Lakers 104, Spurs 90
Kobe's line: 47 mins, 45 pts, 10 rebs, 3 asts, 19-35 shooting.
This was the very next game, if you didn't notice. After this one, Shaq famously said, "I think he's the best player in the league. By far." The Kobe-Shaq relationship thawed that night, and they would play nice for more than two years after that.
5/12/02, Game 4, Western Conference Semifinals, Alamodome: Lakers 87, Spurs 85
Kobe's line: 44 mins, 28 pts, 7 rebs, 3 asts.
The numbers don't tell the story here. Kobe was never more clutch than he was in this series. I mean, you talk about a closer. This is the game where Kobe stretched his left arm all the way back to snag an offensive rebound off of a Derek Fisher missed shot, came down, then went back up like a pogo-stick and scored the game-winning layup. He just wanted it more. For my money, the single greatest play of Kobe's career.
6/9/02, Game 3, NBA Finals, Izod Center: Lakers 106, Nets 103
Kobe's line: 46 mins, 36 pts, 6 rebs, 4 asts, 2 blks, 14-23 shooting.
This was the game where Kobe made a jumper with Kenyon Martin's hand literally in his face down the stretch. Another very clutch performance. People might remember this one more if the series wasn't completely one-sided. A complete walkover. Like taking candy from a baby.
4/28/04, Game 5, Western Conference first-round series, Staples Center: Lakers 97, Rockets 78
Kobe's line: 41 minutes, 31 pts, 6 rebs, 10 asts, 3 stls, 12-21 shooting.
Kobe flies to Colorado to attend legal proceedings, flies back to Los Angeles and arrives at the arena four minutes before tipoff, eliminates Rockets all in one day. Man those were crazy times.
5/11/04, Game 4, Western Conference Semifinals, Staples Center: Lakers 98, Spurs 90
Kobe's line: 45 mins, 42 pts, 5 rebs, 5 asts, 3 stls, 15-27 shooting.
Kobe flies to Colorado and enters a plea of "not guilty" to sexual assault, flies back to Los Angeles, nods up series versus Spurs. Have this one on tape, too, the real, uncut, TNT version: At 25, Kobe may already have been the best pure scorer in the history of the game.
6/8/04, Game 2, NBA Finals, Staples Center: Lakers 99, Pistons 91 OT
Kobe's line: 49 mins, 33 pts, 4 rebs, 7 asts, 2 stls, 14-27 shooting.
Kobe hits the three over Rip to send the game to OT, where L.A. got the W. After the game, Larry Brown drew criticism for not instructing his team to foul Kobe before he got up the shot. The Lakers would lose the next three games and that would be that, which took a lot of it's luster away. But at the time? HUUUUUUUUGE shot, especially when you consider that up to that point he had only made 4-of-28 three-point attempts in the fourth quarter during the playoffs.
Then again, in a way, that just makes it a typical Kobe shot. But I can't leave it out because of the magnitude of the shot at the moment he made it.
4/23/08, Game 2, Western Conference first-round, Lakers 122, Nuggets
Kobe's line: 42 mins, 49 pts, 4 rebs, 10 asts, 18-of-27 shooting.
You saw the game. Besides, at this point, what more can you say about the man? He's one of the greats.
Let's hope he has a few more in him this postseason, and the ones that follow. He isn't going to last forever, we better enjoy him while he's still here.