Kobe Bryant Scores 23 As Los Angeles Lakers Clinch Playoff Birth

Charlie JonesContributor IMarch 13, 2009

With a three-pointer by Bryant at 1:46 left in the game, the Los Angeles Lakers became the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff birth.

Their 102-95 victory over the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night in San Antonio could've been much worse.

From the get-go, it looked like the Lakers could have handed the Spurs a blowout on their home court. By the end of the first quarter, the Lakers were up 35-17 with 10 first-half turnovers committed by the Spurs.

By the start of the fourth, the score was a more respectable 78-70; however, the Spurs made a game of it on Finley's three-pointer with 10:30 left making the score 81-78. The playoff-type atmosphere grew until Kobe scored the last of his 23 points on that three-pointer that effectively sealed the game for his team.

"I thought it was pretty good defense," George Hill said after Kobe drained the shot. "But it's Kobe, and he makes great plays. I did the best I could to challenge him and try to push him back out. He's deadly."

The Lakers took the season series 2 - 1.

The AP contributed to this story.