LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 22: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives against Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on April 22, 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)
It was the most unlikely of comebacks, so it makes sense that it came from the most unlikely of places. Down by 17 near the start of the 4th quarter, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to try a lineup they never tried before. Ramon Sessions and Pau Gasol joined Steve Blake, Devin Ebanks, and Jordan Hill as Mike Brown searched under every rock for just a little bit of energy. He finally found some. When Kobe Bryant replaced Ramon Sessions with 8 minutes to go in the quarter, the Lakers were still down 13. That lineup would play the rest of the way, and at game's end, the result was a 114-106 double overtime victory.
The breakout performance, where a player plays far better than you might have expected, is a rare thing to watch. I don't know that I've ever seen two of them in the same game, until now, but the play of Hill and Ebanks were both incredibly eye opening. Hill provided a level of energy that no Laker big has achieved in quite some time, as shown by his 14 points and 15 rebounds off the bench, and the very pointed manner in which Mike Brown decided to stick with Hill over Andrew Bynum down the stretch. Meanwhile, Devin Ebanks barely played in the 1st half, but was pressed into duty after Metta World Peace's 2nd quarter ejection, and his defense on Kevin Durant down the stretch was inspired. Durant still had 35 points on the night, but it took him 34 shots to get there. Meanwhile, all three of the Lakers stars struggled with their shot, but Kobe Bryant set the tone with an exuberant display on Russell Westbrook. Kobe was in full Doberman mode, hounding Westbrook to a 3-22 shooting performance, and Kobe heated up himself down the stretch, scoring 16 of his 26 in the 4th quarter and overtimes.
And Metta World Peace showed he still has quite the dark side. After a tremendous dunk in traffic, Metta started doing one of his patented chest thumping celebrations, but when James Harden entered his airspace, Metta let fly with a poorly disguised elbow straight to the side of Harden's head, and was promptly and justly ejected from the game. Harden did not return to the game, due to concussion like symptoms. One can only hope he doesn't miss significant time due to Metta's fall off the wagon of respectable behavior.
Still, this was a big win for the Lakers. They are now just one win over the over-matched Sacramento Kings away from the playoff positioning we've been talking about for weeks.