No one expected Kobe Bryant's 7th seeded Los Angeles Lakers to give reigning MVP Steve Nash's 2nd seeded Phoenix Suns much trouble in their first round playoff matchup. No one, that is, except Bryant himself. Going into Game 4 the Lakers had the opportunity of putting a stranglehold on the series by going up 3 games to 1. Pretty impressive considering most so called analysts picked them to be on the outside looking in before the season was underway.
The first half was the most intense the series had been, each team trading the other basket for basket. To the Lakers dismay, Bryant was in foul trouble for much of the half and could do no more than watch as he sat next to Phil Jackson on the sideline. Still, Phoenix just couldn't seem to pull away.
A three pointer by Tim Thomas put the Suns ahead by 4 with less than a minute remaining. The Lakers, of course, looked to Bryant as they had all season long. A typical ending being a series of clutch jumpers over multiple defenders as the clock ran out. But when Bryant launched his desperation three point attempt, it rattled off the rim as the Suns cleared for the rebound. All the Lakers could do is foul and hope that the best free throw shooting team in the league miss from the stripe. Diaw split the two and stretched the lead to 5.
"How could the Lakers have allowed such a great opportunity slip away?" was the question most Laker fans had going through their heads as they made for the exists. The game being just about over. Or at least that's how it seemed....right?
Right. But Bryant had other things in mind. Smush Parker's desperation three-pointer cut the lead to two, causing some of the fans to sit back down. Go figure huh? The clock read 7.9 seconds, the Lakers still needing a miracle.
The pass came into Nash, one of the best free throw shooters of all time, but the ball was knocked away by Parker. He was then able to flip the ball to Devean George who could hear the voice of a near by Bryant, yelling "hey, hey, hey." Bryant, of course, got the ball and delivered yet another classic buzzer beater. It was an awkward looking shot with it barely getting over the outstretched arms of Boris Diaw.
The game went into overtime, but the Lakers trailed by three with 15.7 remaining. After a quick score by Bryant cut it to 1, Nash rushed up court. Why? Beats me. After all, the Lakers were the ones who had to commit a foul to stop the clock. Anywho, a trap by Lamar Odom and Luke Walton was enough to force a jump ball.
So here we are. The clock reading 6.1 seconds and the Lakers being out of timeouts. Could Bryant pull another rabbit out of a hat? He obviously thought so, telling Walton to tip the ball out towards his direction so he could secure it and hopefully make something out of nothing. Which he did, as he rushed up court analyzing his options. Walton was open in the corner, along with Odom at the top of the three-point line. But do you really think Bryant would PASS the ball in a situation like that? Of course not. But did his elbow jump shot over two Phoenix defenders go in?
Duh! Staples instantly became a circus. Bryant then showed he was more than a basketball player, he was an entertainer. The frozen image of his fist pump was still fresh in every mind of Laker fans around the globe, even after the Lakers lost the series.
What happened to the Phoenix Suns you ask? Kobe Happened.