With the 2012-13 season now in the Los Angeles Lakers' rear-view mirror, it is the ideal time to reflect on some instances that truly made LA's season one to remember. This season had its share of ups and downs, highlights and low-lights and anything in between.
These games left a lot to talk about for fans and players alike; amongst the wins, losses and injuries that took place, these 82 games were made for the history books.
Let's take a look at just five of these games that truly stood out and truly made their mark on the season.
For the majority of the season, the Lakers were on the wrong end of the win-loss column, and it seemed like the struggle to get to .500 was troublesome enough. However, the team's luck began to change after the Lakers defeated the Atlanta Hawks in a close contest on March 3.
With LA's win over Atlanta, it put the team at a 30-30 record, putting the Lakers at .500 for the first time since the beginning of the season. Kobe Bryant's scoring prowess, combined with Steve Blake's last-minute desperation play on defense, were enough to get LA the win and the start of positive momentum for the purple and gold.
In baseball, if a pitcher throws a complete game, it's considered to be an impressive feat. In basketball, for a player to play all four quarters nonstop, it's considered to be unprecedented.
Kobe Bryant played all 48 minutes during the Lakers' 113-106 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on April 10 and had the numbers to show for his memorable performance. Bryant scored 47 points and went 18-for-18 in free throws in that game.
Some may say that this feat may have contributed to Bryant's season-ending injury, but for the moment, it truly was a sight to see.
Just when things were starting to look up for the Lakers in terms of healthy players, they took their biggest hit of the season in a game against the Golden State Warriors.
Kobe Bryant went down during the game with a torn Achilles, which was later revealed to require surgery that would put Bryant out for six to nine months. And of course, the keyboard warriors and mainstream media smelled blood in the water, immediately spouting rumors of Vino's retirement before the man himself could even comment on the matter.
Bryant immediately came out and commented on his injury, showing frustration and anger at a retirement that hadn't even been announced yet. Needless to say, Bryant will return for at least one more season as a sign of redemption, or possibly because he's just hungry and relentless for more.
But until then, No. 24 is in the same boat as the rest of us: sitting behind a TV screen and hoping for the best.
In the absence of one of the greatest to play the game, questions immediately arose as to who would rise to the occasion and pick up the slack for the Lakers. And out of nowhere, the person to take the initiative in all this chaos is none other than Steve Blake.
During the Lakers' 91-86 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on April 14, Blake put up 23 points for LA, a feat that is rarely seen from the man who was mostly seen riding the pine pony for the Lake Show for the majority of the season.
In the wake of this performance, all the cliched, Kobe-resembling nicknames arose: The Blake Mamba, White Mamba and, most recently, Vino Blanco. As hilarious as these names sound, Blake continued to live up to them, showing consistency in his performance, which is more obviously more important than the numbers themselves.
The Lakers' playoff chances came all the way down to game 82. It was against the Houston Rockets that LA clinched the seventh seed in the Western Conference, and it was done in blockbuster fashion.
Despite it being a close game, with LA winning 99-95, it was a game that demonstrated nothing but absolute cohesion. Steve Blake put up 24 points in the wake of Kobe Bryant's absence, Dwight Howard had solid numbers on both ends of the court and Pau Gasol silenced the critics by putting up 17 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists in a triple-double performance that kept the Lakers' playoff hopes alive.
After the game, the Black Mamba himself took to Twitter to wag his finger at all of Gasol's naysayers:
"Can the talk of trading @paugasol come to a cease now??"
Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) via Twitter, April 17