Kobe Bryant’s top 100 games: No. 69

·1 min read

In the spring of 2002, the Los Angeles Lakers were going for a third straight NBA championship, but it wouldn’t be nearly as easy as their second title was the prior year.

While they went 15-1 in the 2001 playoffs, they struggled a bit in 2002, and one reason was Shaquille O’Neal’s health.

He was battling a painful, arthritic big toe, and it was limiting his dominance and performance.

Against the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the playoffs, L.A. only achieved a 1-1 split after the first two games at Staples Center, and it was in some trouble in Game 3 in Texas.

With O’Neal managing just 22 points that night, someone else needed to step up. Luckily, that night became Kobe Bryant time.

He put up 31 points on 15-of-31 shooting, six assists and six rebounds as he turned a close game through three quarters into a 99-89 win.

Bryant would come up clutch again down the stretch of Game 4 and Game 5, and what looked to be a barnburner of a series early on turned into a one-sided 4-1 Lakers triumph.

If anyone had doubted that he had become the most clutch player in the NBA, that series offered more proof beyond any doubt.

List

Kendrick Nunn's injury recovery has been slower than expected

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire