It all started last Wednesday night in Houston as Ron Artest thought he had the "Mamba" caged, but got a little full of himself (as usual) and ignited Kobe to score 18 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter. That ended the Rockets 12 game home winning streak that night as the Lakers showed excellent defense and held Yao to 16 points.
Then the ride over to San Antonio was the middle and last game of a three game road trip that started in Portland, and if the Lakers won, the victory included a playoff berth. The playoffs were already on the "to do list" seconds after the Lakers lost the championship last year to the Celtics.
The Lakers went on to beat the Spurs 102-96, but the celebration was very low key as they are managing to keep focused on the main goal that eluded them last year and trying to wrap up the number one seed throughout the playoffs and finals this year.
In the Spurs win both Gasol and Odom contributed double-doubles & I'm not talkin' bout "In & Out" (sounds good though) This coming off the Odom one game suspension from the Ariza/Fernandez flagrant foul that fired up the Blazers and Rosegarden fans.
However, the shot of the night in San Antonio once again goes to the "Mamba" who struck a deadly three with 1:46 left in the fourth and brought his total to 23 for the night and secured the victory, where the crowd showered him with chants of MVP.
Now back to LA LA land and the Mavs trying to rep for the Lone Star State and prevent the Texas sweep mustered up a good defense of Kobe early, but forgot about Gasol. The Lakers seven footer started and ended the first half by going a perfect 10 for 10 and scoring every way imaginable.
The Mavs double team of Kobe allowed for this and Kobe directed all shots to the big man who had the hot hand as the Lakers scored 35 points in the 1st quarter. The 35 points were almost matched as Dallas put up a 32 point 3rd quarter and had the Lakers on the ropes mid way through the 3rd thanks to Jason Terry.
Terry coming from off the bench led this charge back with a very nice 21-2 run and going 7 for 16 from 3 point land and leading all scorers for the Mavs. Not to be out-done, the 4th quarter was paging Kobe Bryant and he led his team with 12-0 run of their own with strong support from Gasol, Odom and especially Trevor Ariza who had a career high 26 points and went 9 of 13 shooting.
If this were a preview of the 2009 playoffs all teams better take notice that Kobe is leading this team in a very different way from seasons past. He is allowing for others to flourish around him and has no problem with taking over whenever he needs to and most importantly he is trusting his teammates more than ever.
This allows the rest of team to have confidence in themselves that they can execute whatever plan by making anybodys defense pay the price because of how much firepower they have.
Not to mention all of this being accomplished without Andrew Bynum, who was interviewed during the game and is not set to return until the end of March, which is completely fine because it looks like the Lakers can breeze their way through the first round of the playoffs and give him more time to re-hab.