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Pivot Points: Lakers End Texas Two-Step with a "Kobe Clutch" Moment

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJanuary 14, 2010

DALLAS - JANUARY 13:  Guard Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers on January 13, 2010 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This one didn't come at the buzzer, but under the circumstances, Kobe Bryant's jumper over Josh Howard of the Dallas Mavericks with 28 seconds to go in the game was just as sweet as any of the three previous game-winners Bryant has hit this season.

On a night where Kobe's teammates played with a fierce passion and Dirk Nowitzki scored his 20,000th point, Bryant still managed to find a way to upstage them, and he did it in his usual spectacular fashion.

Hobbled by back spasms and the enduring pain of a broken finger, Bryant only played nine minutes in the first half and was largely ineffective for the majority of those minutes.

Bryant was limited to 11 field goal attempts for the game and was forced to rely on the talents of his teammates, who responded in admirable fashion in the face of doubts about their abilities to equal the output of Kobe.

Andrew Bynum scored 22 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, while Lamar Odom scored 18 points and bested Bynum with 14 rebounds. Ron Artest added 16 points and 13 rebounds of his own for good measure.

On a night where Bryant totaled 10 points, this was the type of performance needed by the Lakers' secondary players, and a feat they are more than capable of repeating.

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Maybe they recognized the fierce urgency of the moment, or maybe the lack of playing time by Bryant served as a form of motivation to focus them for the task at hand, which was a needed split on this Texas trip.

Bynum followed his stong performance in San Antonio with the kind of game that was normal for him early in the season but disappeared once forward Pau Gasol returned from his first hamstring injury.

Speaking of Gasol, his absence forced Odom and Bynum to take command on the inside and, when they applied themselves, the Mavericks were unable to respond, as the two Lakers dominated the paint.

Gasol's return, although welcome, is sure to rekindle the debate on how best to utilize the Lakers' seven footers, and if the franchise would be better served by limiting their time together on the court.

That discussion, however, is for another time, because the main story was Kobe's big shot and how he managed to add another chapter to his legacy even under the duress of multiple injuries.

Nowitzki became the 34th NBA player to score 20,000 points, yet that spectacular milestone had the significance of a lonely tree falling in a distant forest for Dallas compared to Bryant's heroics.

And they are heroics, because there is no other player in the NBA who performs like Bryant when the pressure is the highest, and there is no one more comfortable with the responsibility of closing out an opponent.

Nowitzki should be applauded for his feat, for it was indeed a piece of the German's own legacy which was established, but the Dallas faithful will have to find another time and place to serenade him, because this night belonged to Bryant.

That's not entirely true, because Bryant's beleagured teammates deserve just as much credit for the Lakers' NBA best 3,000th league victory, as they answered questions about their own perseverance with their biggest stars battling injuries.

Still, Bryant was afforded the opportunity to do what he does best, and yet again the "Kobe Clutch" show was revisited as he came through for another crowd quieting finish.

Maybe Los Angeles has learned how to play outside of the umbrella of Kobe, and that will help them in the future as Bryant will eventually need to reduce his minutes in order to be fresh for the postseason.

Regardless, it's still great to know if the game is close the Lakers have the specter of a great Kobe moment waiting to happen, he is after all the best closer in the professional game today.

Maybe the Lakers' 100-95 win on Wednesday night gave the team the type of confidence they will need as their schedule gets even tougher, and it definitely served notice injured or not, the Lakers are always a big Kobe shot away from victory. 

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