Kobe Bryant hitting huge shots down the stretch is something we've grown accustomed to seeing. However, had an alien ascended to Earth, scalped a ticket, and watched the Lakers for the first time, said extra-terrestrial would have concluded Kobe had never drained a fourth quarter shot in his life.
Five-for-eight from the field for 10 big points in the final frame, Kobe was exceptionally animated after each make. In particular, a baseline jumper over Brandon Roy elicited a series of celebratory F-Bombs capable of making Howard Stern blush. Beyond the joy that comes from overcoming very tough second and third quarters (six misses in seven tries), the testy and physical atmosphere elevated likely juiced Kobe's adrenaline as well.
"It was similar (to a playoff game) because this could be a potential opponent," Bryant conceded. "I think we both know that, so it's a little elevated because of that."
Click on the jump to see videos below from Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.
Speaking of late-game heroics, Derek Fisher in that mix is hardly a rare occurrence, too. Fisher sat for much of the second half with foul trouble, but upon reentering the fray, put his signature on events. Two baskets were canned in the final 1:55, the first a layup (created off his own steal) breaking a tie at 76 apiece and forging a lead the Lakers never surrendered. Fisher talked afterward about the mentality allowing him to come through in crunch time, even after sitting for over 15 minutes.
"I'm just always in the mindset of trying to help us win. Even if things aren't going well for me early or I'm on the bench, I'm still trying to pay attention to matchups and guys that I'm going to guard and situations I'm going to be in. When it comes down the stretch, I'm just comfortable making the play. It's not always going to be a shot, but even defensively, just being in the right spot at the right time, you get a steal, which then allows you to go down and make a shot."
More from Fisher about the team's defense and the difficulty of coming back after injury. Some very interesting details are shared about his experience missing 62 games with a foot injury in 2001.
Lamar Odom was happy about the way the Lakers gutted out a win, but expressed displeasure with the performance on the glass while playing without a suspended Andrew Bynum:
"We gave up way too many offensive rebounds, especially in the first half. Those guys did a great job at crashing the boards. They kept at it and they made us work. Sometimes it's just about finding a way to just win a game and prevail. Tonight we were able to do that.
"Andrew takes up so much space. He's so big. Sometimes with him on the court, we can not do the little things like box out, make the right rotations, and he bails us out with his size. Tonight, that was the point. But we made up for it at the end with just making the right defensive plays."
With Drew on punishment, Pau Gasol logging nearly 45 minutes was a predictable outcome. I asked if a situation like this means pacing himself throughout the game, whether mentally or physically.
"You try not to. You try to go hard. As hard as I can, for as long I can. You get to a point that you just have to fight through the fatigue mentally and physically. You just gotta pull extra hard. Push yourself. And that's what tried to do tonight. I forgot how it felt to play 40+ minutes and I can tell you, it's not that easy."
More from Gasol about close buddy Rafael Nadal, Tuesday's opponent Marcin Gortat and the rebounding issues without Andrew Bynum.