by user

There’s an old adage that it’s better to win the war than to win a battle which the Lakers are proving in their first round match-up against the Suns. With the Lakers winning a thrilling overtime game this afternoon they are now up 3-1 against the Suns and it looks like Steve Nash may win the battle this week when he wins the MVP award but Kobe Bryant will win the war when his team advances to the second round.

The Black Mamba started out the game being aggressive shooting the rock and stung for the Suns for eight points by nailing all four of his shot attempts in the first quarter. Despite his hot start shooting the ball Bryant found himself in foul trouble with two quick fouls and spent the majority of the second quarter stuck to the bench. The only action Bryant would see in the second quarter occurred with four seconds left when Phil Jackson subbed him into the game for the Lakers final possession of the half. Bryant had two chances to give the Lakers the lead heading into the half but his first shot was blocked by James Jones and his 18-foot jumper rimmed out as the buzzer sounded.

Bryant made up for lost time and those missed shot in the second half and overtime period.

In the second half Bryant went 5 for 8 from the field but it was his final shots of regulation and overtime that will be permanently ingrained in the minds of basketball fans. With four seconds left in the game Steve Nash was unable to control a pass from a teammate and he lost the ball to Smush Parker. Parker passed the ball up the court and Bryant attacked the lane and nailed a floater in the paint to force the game into overtime.

Bryant continue to thrill the fans at Staples when he nailed the game winner in overtime after Nash made yet another costly mental error. With 6.1 seconds remaining in overtime Nash found himself trapped near half so he tried to call a quick timeout so the Suns could regroup. The officials couldn’t hear Nash make the call due to the ruckus that the Lakers faithful were making. The tie up resulted in a jump ball between Luke Walton and Nash. Nash then proceeded to loose the jump ball to Walton and Bryant recovered the ball before it rolled out of bounds and then nailed a 17-footer as time expired to give the Lakers a 99-98 victory of Nash’s Suns.

“I have played a lot of playoff basketball and I have never had a game quite like this, with our backs against the wall, seemingly out of it, and us just battling back and getting this `W,” Bryant told the Associated Press following the game. “We matured about 10 to 15 years today. We did a lot of growing up in this game.”

Bryant finished the game with 24 points on 9 for 14 shooting from the field while contributing a team high 8 dimes. While Bryant’s shooting tonight was prolific and is what most hoop fans will remember, it’s been his ability to share the rock and keep his teammates involved in games that has impressed me so far in the playoffs. As a coach it’s been great to see Bryant mature this season and realize that he needs to get his teammates involved on the offensive end in order to win games. During the regular season Bryant averaged 42.5 points per game against the Suns but Phoenix won three of the four games that the teams played against each other. Realizing that scoring over 40 points per game wouldn’t help his team win games against Phoenix, Bryant has been willing to defer to his teammates. So far in the series Bryant has averaged 23 points per game but his teammates are getting more shots. Proof shows up in the boxscore when you see that tonight four Lakers scored in double figures and all eight of the Lakers players who got into the game were able to score. By playing unselfish it’s resulted in the Lakers gaining a 3-1 advantage in their series against the Suns.

While the Suns season isn’t over officially over the dagger pierced their hearts this afternoon their season is now on life support.


Sun 04/30/06, 6:23 pm EST

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