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On this date: Kobe overcomes rib injury and shoots down Blazers

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The 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers were looking to repeat as NBA champs, but they had to deal with injuries, complacency and infighting throughout the regular season.

With a couple of weeks to go in the season, it simply looked like it wasn’t their year. But they won eight straight games to finish the schedule, and they took a 56-26 record and a clean bill of physical and emotional health into the playoffs.

But to defend their crown, the Lakers would have to go through a gauntlet in the Western Conference playoffs.

First up was the Portland Trail Blazers, the team that almost prevented them from winning it all last year, who had almost the same roster they possessed the previous year.

Early in Game 1, Kobe Bryant exited the contest due to a rib injury. He returned in the second quarter, but he clearly wasn’t his usual self.

He started to get it going offensively in the third period, but with 12 minutes left, L.A. only led 74-72, and the Blazers had a great chance to steal the contest and create some real anxiety for the Purple and Gold, especially with Shaquille O’Neal struggling through a 7-of-21 afternoon.

Instead, Bryant powered the Lakers to a 15-0 run to start the fourth quarter, and just like that, the Blazers had fallen apart at the seams, just as they did in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals the year prior.

The future Hall of Fame guard finished with 28 points and seven assists, and L.A. had itself a 106-93 victory that set the tone for the series.

The team would not lose again for about a month and a half, and it would ultimately go 15-1 through the playoffs, en route to its second of three straight world championships.

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Lakers player season grades: Malik Monk