It was a night that saw Kevin Durant log his first career triple-double for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Jose Calderon dish out 18 assists for the Toronto Raptors. It was a night when a defensively challenged Brook Lopez managed to lead the NBA with four blocked shots and Russell Westbrook dropped 30 points. It was also night where Pau Gasol notched his 15,000th career point.
Most importantly, though, it was a night that bore witness to Kobe being more Kobe than anyone could have fathomed.
Bryant posted a triple-double of his own en route to leading the still D'Antoni-less Lakers to their fourth victory in five games.
Stat Line: 22 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and three steals on 50 percent shooting.
Kobe never ceases to amaze anyone.
With D'Antoni's sideline debut being delayed yet again and the team still without point guard Steve Nash, the shooting guard continued to raise the bar in Los Angeles.
In just over 35 minutes, he posted a stat line that boggled the mind; he took the reins on offense and never looked back.
It's not that the Houston Rockets are the most formidable of opponents. Though they are a much-improved team, they simply shouldn't stand a chance against a star-studded Lakers squad playing at their best.
That said, this game meant everything in Los Angeles. A win put the Lakers at .500 for the first time all season—a reality no one thought they'd be facing 10 contests in—and ensured the call for this powerhouse's head was forced to be taken down another notch.
Let's not forget that the Rockets are no strangers to pushing a team like the Miami Heat to the brink, either. Toss in D'Antoni's continued absence, and you had makings of a bout that could have been one for Los Angeles to forget.
Unless you looked at Kobe, that is.
All it took was one quick glance at the effort he was putting forth on both ends of the floor to know that the Lakers weren't going to lose. Not when so much was on the line. Bryant wouldn't let them.
The Black Mamba put an end to a tumultuous first quarter that saw a bevy of ties and lead changes by nailing a mid-range jumper in the waning minutes to give Los Angeles the lead for good.
From there, the Lakers essentially cruised without putting it in cruise control. They took an eight-point lead into halftime and an 11-point edge—which proved to be insurmountable—into the fourth.
Houston ultimately didn't stand a chance. Not with James Harden dropping 20 points and not with Jeremy Lin dishing out 10 assists. The Lakers just weren't letting this one get away.
Kobe wasn't letting this one get away.
Sure, Dwight Howard led the team with 28 points and every Los Angeles starter scored in double figures, but it was Bryant who had his most efficient night of the season and one of the most memorable of his career.
He was the one who rose to the occasion and helped sophomore Darius Morris lead the offense. He's the one who crashed the glass with reckless abandon. He's the one who forced plenty of turnovers and shot 50 percent from the filed. He's the one who posted his 18th career triple-double on a night you just knew was going to be his.
And the night was his. He was not to be outdone by Harden, Lin or any of his own teammates for that matter. He kept fighting, kept his head up when the Lakers began the season 1-4 and his head was still held high as they reached .500 Sunday night.
You simply cannot ask for a better leader or athlete; you'll never find another 34-year-old whose will matches that of Bryant's.
And the Lakers—D'Antoni included—are more than thankful for that.
"I'm a scorer, not a triple-double player," Bryant said (via Dan Arritt of NBA.com) after the game.
Well, Kobe may predominantly be just a scorer, but against the Rockets he was everything, and much more.
So much more.