Saturday's 111-110 Game 3 win for the Lakers in Salt Lake City contained some elements featured prominently in the pre-tip script. For example, with 35 points, including two clutch jumpers down the stretch, and seven assists, Kobe Bryant was outstanding. No surprise given a) he's Kobe Bryant, and b) he's historically used Utah as his personal pin cushion. Derek Fisher, entrusted with a critical shot in the final minute, drew nothing but twine. We've seen that before. Pau Gasol, after a slow start, filled the box score with major contributions. Been there, done that.
Other aspects, though, required some rewrites.
The Lakers, so dominant in the front court over the first two games, had one field goal from Gasol at the half, and got nothing offensively from Andrew Bynum all night. Literally, as Bynum didn't score a single point. Instead, they relied on Bryant, and also the -- brace yourself -- pinpoint shooting of Ron Artest, who made four of his seven attempts from beyond the arc, including three in a critical third quarter stretch.
But even if deviated from the expected, as I wrote following the game, Saturday's win was a great demonstration of what can make NBA playoff basketball so exciting. There were big performances by both team's stars -- Deron Williams finished with 28 points and nine dimes, not quite matching Bryant but still acquitting himself well, but also surprises, like Artest's offensive outburst, a nine-for-10 night from Kyle Korver, or a first half in which the bigs were silent but L.A. stayed tight nonetheless thanks not just to Bryant, but also key buckets from Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar.
Best of all, the final three minutes was a great game of "Can you top this?" pulling fans out of their seats, be said rear-rester at EnergySolutions Arena or in their living rooms. When it was over, ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz (of ClipperBlog/TrueHoop fame) and I put together the video below, breaking down that great end to a great game. Thanks as always to Kevin, who really does most of the heavy lifting on these collaborations.