Pivot Points: "The Kobe Clutch Show" Is Truly Must-See TV

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJanuary 2, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates after hitting the game winning three point basket as time expired against the Miami Heat at Staples Center on December 4, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Heat 108-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

At this rate, Kobe Bryant is on a pace to re-define the term "clutch player," as the Sacramento Kings became the latest team to fall victim to his end-game antics.

Add the Kings to a list that already includes the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks as teams that Bryant has sent off into the night heart-broken and despondent after having to experience defeat on the sure heels of victory.

There was no luck involved in this one, simply catch, set, and release. Basket made, another SportsCenter moment achieved, along with another silencing finger to the mouths of the many who decry Bryant's status in these situations.

Lost in the after-glow of the moment is the point that Los Angeles needed a herculean come-back effort after trailing by as many as 20 points, as the Lakers suffered through another sub-par performance.

The Lakers seemed to be feeling the effects of a New Year's Day hang-over as they came out flat and uninspired, and point guard Derek Fisher did his best to shoot Los Angeles out of the game by missing 9 out of his first 10 shots.

The fourth consecutive game missed by Laker forward Ron Artest added to the defensive problems for a team that has struggled lately to keep any opponent from scoring easy buckets.

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The Kings, with a twinkle of revenge in their eyes, took all the drama out of this one early and headed to the locker room at half-time up 64-49 as a chorus of boos rained down on the ears of the hometown Lakers.

This anger was not directed at the officials as was the case in the Cleveland loss, but rather at the Lakers themselves, who had given the Staples Center crowd little to cheer about up to that point.

The game of professional basketball is a game of runs, and the Kings had to realize the Lakers would make one, but when it came, Sacramento was left powerless to prevent it.

The Lakers spent the third quarter chipping away at the lead and were able to get close enough in the fourth in order to set the final sequence of events that led to Bryant's big shot at the end of the game.

Bryant received help with Lamar Odom scoring a season-high 20 points to go along with 10 rebounds and Pau Gasol turned in his usual consistent effort with 17 points and 16 rebounds.

Several Sacramento players gave inspired performances, with center Spencer Hawes scoring a career-high 30 points to go along with 11 rebounds, and Omri Casspi and Beno Udrih scored 23 and 19 points, respectively.

This night, though, once again belonged to Bryant, and his coach, Phil Jackson, paid the ultimate compliment by saying that Bryant is right there with Michael Jordan in terms of his ability to close out games.

It was four weeks to the day that Bryant ended the game against the Miami Heat on a miracle heave from the top of the key that glanced off the backboard before dropping through the net.

There was a lot more skill involved in this one, as Bryant was able to gather in a pass from Gasol, set his feet, and release a perfectly timed shot that dropped through the net as the red light above the backboard lit up.

The three-pointer gave Bryant 39 points for the night and, more importantly, made him three-for-three on the season in situations where he has the opportunity to win the game on the last shot.

For a player that has had to deal with numerous questions surrounding his status as a clutch performer, Bryant's shot once again took the wind out of such fictitious statements.

The "Kobe Haters" will have to find another element of Bryant's game to nit-pick because it's becoming increasingly more difficult to throw numbers out that show Bryant is not calm under fire.

Jerry West will always hold a soft spot in the hearts of Laker fans everywhere, but it seems the mantle has been passed, and there is a new "Mr. Clutch" roaming the halls of the Staples Center.