You don’t win the MVP award in the NBA for mediocrity, you win it for having clutch performances in the games the that matter most. Welcome to the world of Kobe Bryant.
Tuesday night Bryant put on another impressive display that helped lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a 93-91 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio. The defeat was the Spurs first loss at home during the 08′ postseason and could not have come at a worse time. The defending NBA Champions now find themselves trailing the series 3-1 and heading back into enemy territory, facing a must win situation.
Bryant dropped 28 points and grabbed 10 boards in the game that put the LA only 1 win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2004.
“It is a big step for us,” said Bryant. “Tonight we came out and did a much, much better job to win in this building in this particular game. It’s big for us.”
Up two points with 2 seconds left the Lakers were in situation that called for one more stop to secure the victory. Coming out of a time out, the Spurs ran Brent Barry off of a double screen for the game’s final shot. Barry’s 3-point attempt to win the game did not connect, many believed that he was also fouled in the last ditch effort to pick up the victory.
“That’s not going to get called in the Western Conference finals,” Barry said. “Maybe in the regular season. But that call shouldn’t be called in the Western Conference finals.”
Tim Duncan led all scorers with 29 points while hammering down 17 rebounds but it was not enough to overcome the reigning MVP.
“Obviously we’re in a hole and it’s 3-1,” Duncan said. “It’s one loss and an elimination, but we really feel that if we clean a lot of this stuff up we have an opportunity to get right back in this series.”
Tony Parker and Barry both added 23 points a piece for the Spurs but throughout the game it was the Lakers lineup of youngsters that out hustled and out worked the veterans that just last season tasted what it was like to be crowned NBA Champions.
“I told them at the end of the ballgame, their energy was terrific,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Coming out and responding to a loss and getting a lead … and playing with that kind of energy, I think, carried us over and we responded every time that they came in, tied the ballgame.”
One statistic that San Antonio head coach Greg Popovich and the rest of the Spurs lineup can not be happy about is their rebounding effort as a team. They were out rebounded 46-37 on the night which led to 26 second chance points by the Lakers compared to only 4 for the Spurs. That can not happen again in LA if they expect to pull off a victory.
Game 5 will be on Thursday night at 9pm. The Spurs will look to extend the series at least another game so they can play Game 6 in front of their home crowd, while LA is looking to wrap things up in their own backyard.
One thing is certain; Kobe is going to continue to put up MVP numbers because that’s what MVP’s do. It’s now up to the Spurs to shut down the rest of the Lakers club to keep their hopes of repeating as champions alive.
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