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Kobe's vengeance and Lakers swinging fortunes

Palash Sharma
784   //    14 Mar 2013, 13:01 IST

He goes to the top of the key, uses up his dribble, one pump-fake, then two pump-fakes but the defender doesn’t bite, so he launches the shot over him, an off-balance fade-away from beyond the arc. Swish. The Lakers get within two. He runs the baseline, loses his defender and makes a pull-up jumper. The Lakers get within one. This time there are two defenders on him, trying to prevent an inbound pass come his way. So he dodges them gets the ball, pump fakes and like so many players he has sent flying over 17 seasons, the defender bites and that momentary lapse in discipline is all that he needs. He rises up and ties the game at 109.

Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers is trying to led his team to a play0ff spot.

Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers is trying to led his team to a play0ff spot.

As the game goes into overtime, there is a fitting conclusion to a great clutch performance. The ball ends up in Kobe Bryant‘s hands with the clock winding down and the game tied. The Mamba sizes up his defender, attacks him, goes hard to the hole and dunks it home and wins the game for the LA Lakers.

For every basketball fan who idolizes Kobe Bryant, the last few games the Lakers have played portrays why he is regarded as one of the greatest players to ever grace the game. Sheer dominion and a fierce desire to win every game, are the things responsible for Kobe’s swagger throughout his career, and they have been on full display for the past four games. Every game this past week we’ve seen the famous jutting jaw of Kobe, the jaw which became famous every time Kobe demolishes opponent teams.

Kobe “Vino” Bryant as he is now known in twitter circles — “Vino” being the Italian word for wine — has been playing some of his most efficient and effective basketball this season. A fact, even more remarkable considering he is 34. If his posterized dunks on Chris Paul, Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace and (the most emphatic one) Josh Smith are any indicators, it looks like Bryant has finally figured out what most elite players couldn’t.  How to beat father time. Or if not, he’s decided he wants to go out with a bang.

The Lakers have been on a roll after the All-Star break, playing with a sense of desperation and purpose that were pretty much vacant in a lug-less first half to their season. This has more to do with the rotations being set and players finally learning their roles,  instead of everyone trying to do everything. So in essence: Nash distributes, Howard has stopped complaining about touches and gone back to bullying everyone on the defensive end of the floor with emphatic swats and monster dunks to his name and Bryant has settled into being, well, himself. That means doing everything and just dominating the opposition in clutch time.

The result being the Lakers have ceased to be outside the playoff race looking in and become the eighth and final seed in a rabidly competitive Western Conference with Houston, Utah and Golden State all slipping ground. The seeds of this desperation run by the Lakers were pretty much sown in the All-Star game itself when Kobe known for being notoriously competitive even in All-Star games rejected Lebron James twice in the closing minutes of the game; a defensive battle that was undoubtedly fueled by Micheal Jordan’s comments that he wold pick Kobe over Lebron. They, Kobe and Lebron, were seen jawing at each other after the rejections, a rare occurrence in All-Star games where the mood is generally light.

The Spurs, Clippers and Thunder are still overwhelmingly good for the Lakers, who are still figuring out what to do with a loaded roster that has issues with chemistry and playing with each other. But if the last few games are any indication the Lakers are not going to go down and get owned by these teams. Sure, the Spurs have surgical precision, the Thunder’s sheer pace and the Clippers depth and this may still seem a long shot to beat in a seven game series but at least the Lakers know they can hold their own against these teams if they try.

Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers falls the floor after missing the game-tying basket in the final seconds of their 96-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on March 13, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers falls the floor after missing the game-tying basket in the final seconds of their 96-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on March 13, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.

For now with a few weeks in between the playoffs and the end of the regular season we can be sure Kobe will be throwing more highlight reel dunks and simply taking over with his clutch play. At least that’s what we had hoped, until he sprained his ankle in the loss against the Atlanta Hawks, with the Lakers saying his absence is ‘indefinite’.

But if the Lakers still do manage to make the post-season and then lose in the first round, we can be sure that it wont be because Kobe “Vino” Bryant stopped trying to guide his team out of the pit they dug themselves.

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Palash Sharma
Crazy about basketball and all that comes with it.
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