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L.A. Lakers: Why Kobe Bryant and the Lakers Are Like Bruce Banner and the Hulk

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IApril 2, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 20:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates his basket in the last minute on way to an 84-80 win over the  Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center on March 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

I used to love watching episodes of The Incredible Hulk in the '80s because the show brought the comic books of my childhood to life.

Sure, the production was cheesy and it is a stretch to picture Bill Bixby turning into a green Lou Ferigno, but the series may have captured the vision of creator Stan Lee better than either of the two major motion pictures made in its wake.

The most memorable part of the show is when Bixby, as Dr. Bruce Banner, is pushed to anger, and as his eyes begin to glow bright green, he utters these words: "Don't make me angry. You won't like me when I'm angry."

At this point, the cameras usually go fuzzy as you watch the transformation of Banner into the Hulk, but there is always a visible moment to let you know a change is coming.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant didn't turn green against the Utah Jazz on Friday night, but the Lakers proved that making them angry is a very dangerous proposition.

The Jazz opened up a 17-point lead in the first half of Friday's contest, and it seemed that the Lakers' emotional victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night may have left them drained.

Utah played the Lakers extremely tough despite being short-handed and Jazz forward Paul Milsap was more than holding his own in the paint against Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

But in the second quarter, reality began to set in for the Jazz, as Bryant and the Lakers' length eventually wore the smaller Jazz players down and the Lakers whittled Utah's lead down to six points at halftime.

As the Lakers began to seize control early in the third quarter, the game took on a more physical tone, and the Utah players, who were clearly frustrated, began to vent those frustrations by delivering hard fouls.

You would think the Jazz might have caught a few minutes of the Lakers' win over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.

Desperate circumstances forced the Mavericks to resort to cheap shots and blatant acts of thuggery, but their actions only awakened the monsters lurking beneath the Lakers' purple and gold jerseys.

The Lakers are good enough to beat any team on any given night, but the worst thing an opponent can do is add fuel to their fire.

The visible change in this game occurred with about nine minutes left in the third quarter, when Bryant was fouled hard by Utah center Kyrylo Fesenko while attacking the rim off the dribble.

There was really nothing malicious about the foul, but as Bryant rested on the court, Fesenko casually threw the ball back at Bryant's feet.

The move was so subtle that ESPN's analysts missed it, but Bryant's reaction was instantaneous.

Bryant jumped up from the court to confront Fesenko, but he was restrained by Gasol, and even though Bryant cooled down, the damage had already been done for the Jazz.

Fesenko's foul was the final tipping point in a game that had seen Bryant take numerous hard shots, as well as an errant knee from Fesenko on Bryant's own ailing knee.

Bryant's whole demeanor changed after Fesenko threw the ball at him, and so did the attitude of his team, and what had been a close competitive game up until that point quickly devolved into a route.

The Lakers, who were clearly tired from their contest the night before, used Utah's insolence to find another gear, and the Jazz actually missed the chance to win a game that was well within their reach.

After the Lakers had finished off the Jazz 96-85 for their 17th win in 18 games, ESPN analyst Mark Jackson mentioned how silly it was for teams to continuously try to test the Lakers physically, because, after all, it's not 2008 anymore.

The scouting report on the Lakers back in 2008 said that if you roughed up the Lakers physically, they would eventually wilt under the pressure.

But this is not 2008, and these are not those Lakers.

These Lakers respond to pressure with aggression, and when you push them, they usually push back harder, and they don't stop until they have pushed the will to compete from your team.

Opponents are going to have a difficult time defeating the Lakers as it is, but the worst thing you can do is make Bryant and his team angry.

Because as the Mavericks and now the Jazz have learned, you run the risk of awakening an animal.

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