Bryant made the game-tying shot with 14.2 seconds remaining in
the fourth quarter and the game-winner with 28.6 seconds left in
overtime Sunday night as the Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns 115-113
to clinch a playoff berth.
''That's what I do, that's my job, man,'' Bryant said.
''Everything seems to stand still. I love that moment.''
The game-tying shot was a 13-footer from the right baseline, and
the game-winner was a 21-footer from the right wing.
''That was vintage Kobe,'' Suns coach Frank Johnson said.
Bryant's shot from the top of the key as time expired gave the
Lakers a 102-101 victory at Memphis on Friday night.
Bryant had 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the
Lakers (46-31), who have won four in a row and seven of eight to
move a season-high 15 games over .500.
The three-time defending NBA champions are in sixth place in the
West, but just 1½ games behind Portland and Minnesota with five
games to play.
The Lakers began the season by losing 19 of their first 30
games. They've gone 35-12 since.
''There's nothing like wins that generate more wins,'' Lakers
coach Phil Jackson said. ''They fall behind each other. That's what
we're trying to do.''
O'Neal's final block was an attempt by rookie Amare Stoudemire
with about 10 seconds remaining. The ball found its way to Shawn
Marion, who tried a 3-pointer with about six seconds left that could
have put the Suns ahead.
But it missed, Bryant got the rebound and dribbled out the
''I know his moves,'' O'Neal said of Stoudemire. ''I knew what
he was going to do. I was just there.''
Stephon Marbury had 40 points, eight rebounds and eight assists
for the Suns (40-36), who remained in eighth place in the West but
just a half-game ahead of Houston and two up on Seattle.
''When you're going against the champs, it takes more than
that,'' Marbury said.
Marion had 18 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven
steals, and Stoudemire added 16 points and seven rebounds.
The Suns lost despite getting 22 offensive rebounds and winning
the battle of the backboards 53-43.
In addition, the Lakers committed 20 turnovers -- seven by Bryant
and six by O'Neal -- to 15 for the Suns.
The difference was the Lakers shot 52.9 percent to 43.9 percent
for Phoenix and shot 7-for-20 from 3-point range while the Suns were
1-for-8 from beyond the arc.
''We were next-and-neck all the way down to the end,'' Marion
said. ''But a shot here, a rebound there, and it got away from us.
We deserved to win this game.''
The Lakers led by as many as four in overtime before the Suns
tied it at 113 on a basket by Stoudemire with 1:33 remaining and
two free throws by Marbury with 42.6 seconds left.
That set the stage for Bryant.
Marbury had 14 points in the fourth quarter, including a basket
with 2½ minutes remaining that gave the Suns a 104-99 lead.
But George made a 3-pointer with 1:36 left and added two free
throws 18 seconds later to tie it 104-all.
Joe Johnson made a short jumper with 21.8 seconds to play to
give Phoenix the lead. But Bryant tied it. Johnson then missed from
about 18 feet and George got the rebound as time expired, sending
the game into overtime.
A twisting jumper by Bryant capped a 14-2 run to finish the
third quarter and start the fourth, putting the Lakers on top
But a basket by Penny Hardaway and six consecutive points by
Marbury gave the Suns a 91-89 lead with 7:14 remaining.
Neither team led by more than five after that.
A jumper by Marbury midway through the third quarter capped a
19-7 run to begin the second half, giving the Suns a 72-63 lead -- largest for either team.
The Lakers have won 24 of the last 31 between the teams and
eight in a row in Los Angeles. ... Lakers assistant Tex Winter is
among 21 finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame. This
September's inductees will be announced Monday in New Orleans. ''I
don't hold my breath on it, I've been nominated six times,'' said
the 81-year-old Winter, who began his coaching career in 1947. ''I
consider it an honor to have been nominated six times.'' ... Former
Lakers star James Worthy is also among the nominees. ... O'Neal was
honored before the game for becoming the 28th player in NBA history
to score 20,000 points. He reached the milestone March 20 in a
107-99 defeat against Sacramento. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak
presented him the game ball, which was defaced when presented to
him in Sacramento. The Kings determined a fan wrote an obscenity on
the ball and removed it.