The Los Angeles Lakers continued their best streak of the season with a dramatic comeback over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night at Staples Center.
Looking up at the monolithic arena board from my level-one box seat (ah, the perks of going to USC and having friends in fraternities and sororities) with the Lakers trailing late in the fourth, I had a good feeling about how the contest would turn out.
After all, the Lakers had won 11 of 12 games since the All-Star break and were starting to look like the two-time defending champions that we were expecting.
The unraveled script told a familiar story: Lakers trail late, get serious, Kobe takes over with a few brilliant shots and the Lakers dramatically snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Bryant was brilliant after entering with 8:53 left in the fourth quarter after a curiously long rest between quarters. He shot five-of-eight, including a ridiculous fadeaway over Brandon Roy, an impossible reverse layup and a high-arching short jumper to upstage Nicolas Batum's brilliant game for Portland.
The victory over Portland may not have been impressive, but it spoke volumes about how hot the Lakers are right now.
Here are the five biggest reasons why the Lakers, winners of 12 out of 13, are the NBA's hottest team.