LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 13: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives in for a basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on January 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
In a game which showed just how vital the Big 3 of the Los Angeles Lakers truly is, Kobe Bryant put on a 1st half shooting display that was vintage Mamba. 24 points on 9-13 first half shooting, including a jaw dropping 4-5 from three point range on a bum wrist, Kobe's big half combined with an energetic performance from the entire starting five, and the Los Angeles Lakers raced out to a big half time lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They'd need every point of it, as Kobe cooled down considerably in the 2nd half after the team had already bought their tickets to the Kobe show. In the end, the Lakers were able to hold on in the 4th quarter by locking down defensively and getting just enough from Kobe and the rest of the Big 3 down the stretch to survive the Cavs' comeback bid.
In the end, the Black Mamba ended up with his third straight 40 point game which, despite the unevenness of tonight's performance, is a truly remarkable feat for a player of Kobe's age and a surreal one for a player of Kobe's current health. Andrew Bynum was huge for the first six minutes of the game, hitting the team's first three shots en route to 10 1st quarter points, but hardly touched the ball from that point until late in the 4th quarter. He ended with 15 points and 11 boards. Pau Gasol chipped in with 19 and 10, and Matt Barnes provided 15 points as well, and they were all vital, because the rest of the team scored just six points combined.
More to come later on tonight ...