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On this date: Kobe Bryant makes statement versus Steve Nash’s Suns

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When the Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2006 NBA Playoffs against Steve Nash and the high-powered Phoenix Suns, no one thought they could even be competitive versus a team that finished with the second-best record in the Western Conference.

As expected, L.A. lost Game 1, 107-102, as Kobe Bryant shot just 7-of-21 from the field.

But he returned to form in Game 2, and in doing so, he sent a powerful message.

Bryant went 12-of-24 in Game 2 and scored 29 points, to go along with 10 rebounds and five assists.

With just over three minutes remaining and L.A. holding on to a seven-point lead, forward Luke Walton missed a jumper and Lamar Odom grabbed an offensive rebound. Bryant then cut down the middle, and Odom fed him the ball, resulting in a powerful dunk over Nash and a memorable poster.

Nash was named that season’s MVP, but a strong argument could be made that with his 35.4 points-a-game average, Bryant should’ve won the award. The dunk’s symbolism was hard to ignore.

It was a loud and clear message to the Suns: The Lakers were there to compete hard and not to be mere sacrificial lambs. They won the contest, 99-93, and all of a sudden, it was a series.

L.A. would ultimately fall in seven games after taking a 3-1 series lead, but it was a sign that the team was resurrecting itself after the controversial Shaquille O’Neal trade of 2004.

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