On this date: An underrated Kobe Bryant gem versus the Spurs
When the 2007-08 season began, the Los Angeles Lakers were simply hoping Kobe Bryant would back off his demand to be traded and that they would make the playoffs.
But by February, they and their fans were thinking world championship, as the team had acquired Pau Gasol.
L.A. zipped through the rest of the regular season, finishing first in the Western Conference and advancing to the conference finals against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.
After looking so impressive earlier in the playoffs, the Lakers came out flat in Game 1 at Staples Center, trailing 65-45 midway through the third quarter.
But Bryant came to the rescue.
He came alive, scoring 23 of his 27 points from that point on as his team chipped away at its deficit.
Trailing by seven at the start of the fourth quarter, the Lakers finally tied the game with 3:18 left on a layup by Lamar Odom.
With 23.9 seconds remaining and the game still tied, Bryant scored the decisive basket, hitting a mid-range shot to lift L.A. to an 89-85 victory.
He ended the game with nine assists, and afterward, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich couldn’t help but praise him.
“Kobe, he was doing a trust-his-teammates thing in the first half,” Popovich said. “That’s why he had five assists, and he was checking it all out and see where his territory was going to be. In the second half, he went to work.
“Obviously a difficult loss and we had a great opportunity. We didn’t take advantage of it. Hurts like hell.”
Los Angeles’ Game 1 triumph set the tone for the series, as it knocked out the Spurs in five contests.
After three years of purgatory, Bryant and the Lakers were back, and it was the rest of the NBA’s worst nightmare.
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