As previously stated, this was just a helluva game.
Manu came with it in the first half, dropping 19 points on the strength of some hot shooting — something that was contagious throughout the first two quarters as the normally slow-paced Western Conference elites ran up the jumbotron to the tune of a 66-61 Spurs lead at the break.
The offensive onslaught continued in the 3rd quarter but predictably slowed in the 4th, which is really what made this game so phenomenal. Kobe was absolutely transcendent in the final six minutes. He was running the pick-and-roll like John Stockton even with his Karl Malone stand-in being Josh Powell. More so, Mamba was generally just finding open guys no matter where or who they were and making the right pass within the flow of the offense, whether it was a simple swing pass on the perimeter or a dump-down to Pau.
By the end, Kobe had either scored or gotten the assist on 18 of the Lakers final 20 points. Or for those into brevity, unreal.
Just as Mamba started doing his thing, the Spurs became uncharacteristically sloppy and opened the door for LA. Tony Parker made one of the most staggeringly bad turnovers I’ve seen in some time with a panicked jump-pass to an area of the court without a Spur within 15 feet. Groundhog Day fumbled away two balls in the post. Matt Bonner was for some reason penetrating and whistled for a charge. And the whole team collectively shat the poise with a 24-second violation. It was essentially the mathematical inverse of what Kobe was doing on the other end.
Given that Mamba had started his brilliance around the six-minute mark with an “are you serious?” fall-away three from the baseline and had done everything and anything he wanted offensively thereafter, it seemed that a Laker comeback victory was all but inevitable.
The Lakers even took a three-point lead after a Kobe jumper. But then Tim Duncan remembered he was Tim Duncan and put the Spurs back up by one by scoring on back-to-back possessions — the second of which where he lost the ball, regathered and threw an incredible jump hook over his head in a play that only one guy on this planet could make.
Of course, Kobe didn’t really give a fuck.
He simply walked down to the other end and stuck a three right in Roger Mason Jr.’s eyeball. As beautiful as that was, his follow up was even sweeter — he did the giant testicle dance all the way down the sideline, something Jeff Van Gundy called the “Sam Cassell jog back.”
(Watch below unless you hate America.)
Of course — or so it’s starting to seem — Roger Mason, Jr. didn’t really give a fuck.
He had actually been defending Kobe pretty well throughout the fourth quarter on the other end but had just gotten caught up in the whole force-of-nature thing. And even though RMJ hadn’t scored a bucket in nearly 20 minutes, he grabbed the sideline inbounds pass, stepped back into a gambling Derek Fisher and drew the signature Reggie Miller foul as he elevated for the jumper.
And, oh yeah, he also drilled the 20-footer to tie the game. Then the Notorious RMJ coolly walked to the line and gave the Spurs a one-point lead with 10 seconds to play.
(Watch below unless you hate basketball.)
The Lakers had an opportunity to win but a dubious Trevor Ariza travel negated that, although it probably didn’t matter anyway since the shot was off the mark and the Spurs looked to be in control of the board.
All in all, it was a great game throughout and the most Playoffesque final six minutes I think I’ve seen this season. So despite the ongoing brilliance of Chris Paul (who dropped a damn-near quadruple double last night), Spurs/Lakers is obviously going to be every pundits favorite Western Conference Finals prediction beginning today.
Possibly more importantly, however, we have two other interesting developments with the one-and-only Kobe Bryant. Not only is he planning to start charging $50 for “premium access” to his KB24.com website (something I don’t think is quite as ridiculous as FanHouse does, but whatever) but he is also now selling ankle insurance in what is easily the best commercial he’s ever been in. (via NESW Sports)
(Watch below unless you hate seeing Mamba on a horse and, thus, hate America.)