The overmatched Miami Heat almost came back to beat the Los Angeles Lakers on a nationally televised game on Sunday.
Twice on this road trip, the Lakers failed to win in the end, and continued to follow a trend that seemed to be set in stone—late game non-heroics leading to Lakers losses.
Coaches called it poor end of the game execution, fans called it a lack of nerves.
After Kobe Bryant, no one was willing to take the "Big Shot." You know, the shot a person dreams of taking and making as a kid.
Apparently, the Lakers players not named Kobe never had that dream.
But at Miami, a new Lakers hero emerges.
With the pressure on late in the game, Miami was on a desperate tear to regain the lead and win.
Luke Walton found himself on the right baseline with a partial lane to the basket open. Luke's first thought, "I'm sure it would be best to find Kobe, but Kobe was covered."
Luke then put his head down like a bull and drove to the basket.
I and every Lakers fan screamed, "Nooooo!!"
Imagining a Luke charge or worse, another clown-like off-balanced missed shot. We knew we had lost another game. Luke stopped to avoid a charge, saw a thin opening, and passed across the key to Pau Gasol.
Pau with his back to the basket now, calmly set his feet, tried not to force his way into the lane against a smaller defender, and took a short hook shot.
The question was asked and debated on Lakers Nation blogs after the Detroit Pistons loss: Who besides Kobe can take the big pressure shot with the game on the line?
Kobe was doubled without the ball. A Lamar Odom option failed and the Lakers fans shook their collective heads.
The Lakers, if they want to progress in the playoffs need another option, a go to guy. Or the Detroit loss will be repeated many times. Most playoff games are close, especially with the competitive Wild West.
Pau, "the Spaniard," just answered that question. The ball swished right through the middle of the basket and Miami's run was effectively ended.
For a moment, I thought I saw Kareem doing what he's done a thousand times in the past. A confident man oblivious to the situation, stroking with precision, a well-crafted signature hook shot.
That was a long time ago, on a Championship team that brings very fond memories from this writer and observer.
With that shot and make, Pau Gasol, in a small way, just lifted the spirits and hopes of an eager Lakers Nation. We no longer have a Mr. Clutch, Kareem's confident Sky Hook, or a even a Big Shot Bob.
We now have, Kobe's Killer Instinct, and Perfect Pau, "the Spaniard"—okay, we need a better name, but you get the idea.
The Lakers are back and ready to compete with the best.