Kobe Bryant’s top 100 games: No. 24

Entering the first round of the 2006 NBA Playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers were thought to have only two chances of defeating the running and gunning Phoenix Suns: slim and none.

But they took a 3-1 series lead on the back of Kobe Bryant, and suddenly, it seemed like a series victory was almost a lock.

The Lakers got blown out in Game 5 in Arizona, but they had Game 6 at Staples Center to lean on. Their chances looked even better when Suns guard Raja Bell was suspended for clotheslining Bryant in Game 5.

All series long, Bryant had been looking to be patient and set up his teammates, but sensing the urgency of the situation, he tried to go for the kill.

He scored 14 points with four assists in the first half as the Lakers got out to a seven-point lead. But that lead evaporated, leaving them down by three at halftime.

He then turned things up to 11, scoring 24 points in the second half as he single-handedly kept L.A. in the contest. Two buckets by him in the last two minutes gave it a 105-102 lead with 29.3 seconds left.

But the team gave up an offensive rebound and a 3-pointer by Tim Thomas that tied the game at 6.3 seconds remaining, and Bryant’s series-winning attempt missed, leading to overtime.

There, he did everything he could by scoring a dozen points, but the Lakers’ defense couldn’t contain Phoenix, and they ended up losing 126-118.

Bryant scored 50 points on 20-of-35 shooting while also contributing eight rebounds, five assists and three steals. Although the Lakers lost, it was an example of him at his heroic and fearless best, doing all he could in a virtual must-win situation.

Had one more bounce of the ball gone L.A.’s way, it would’ve been one of the very best games of his career and a true gem in NBA playoff history.


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Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire