The Los Angeles Lakers put together yet another stunning, late, victory-- this time against the Toronto Raptors. Kobe Bryant was absolutely insane down the stretch in the fourth quarter, single-handedly willing the Lakers back into the game with his barrage of stupidly difficult three-point field goals. Still, Steve Nash had a huge three-point field goal in overtime to tie the game, and both Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace played great defense as the game went on, which all added up to the Lakers finally climbing over the .500 wall.
Now, the Lakers are just .5 games out of the playoffs and are in hot pursuit of the Utah Jazz for their eighth seed in the playoffs. In this edition of The Playbook, we'll take a look at a handful of key plays down the stretch from Friday night's incredible comeback victory.
In the immortal words of Mark Jackson, "momma there goes that man".
With under two minutes left in regulation and the Lakers down five, Metta World Peace is bodying up on the perimeter to create a critical stop. Howard is lurking in the paint.
World Peace is blown by, but Howard hustles to rotate and protect the rim.
Dwight gets a clean block and the Lakers go the other way in transition, a huge stop in a tight game with time ticking away.
Eventually the ball is swung around to Kobe, and Howard sets a high-screen.
Amir Johnson does a good job of hedging and cutting Kobe off from dribble penetration initially, then sliding his feet to continue challenging him on the perimeter.
Kobe is trapped, but Johnson moves back into the paint to put a body on Howard.
There are only 3.3 seconds left on the shot clock, leaving Kobe to try to pull off a miracle shot.
He pump fakes a few times, then drains the three with the defender in his jersey with only 1.5 seconds left on the shot clock. Lakers down two.
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The Lakers are still down, now by four, with only 31.7 seconds left on the clock. Nash inbounds the ball to Kobe, who immediately slides to the corner.
There's the separation for Kobe, and the perfect bounce pass from Nash.
Kobe gets the ball and nails a turnaround three-point shot. while allowing only .6 seconds to tick off the clock.
With 8.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Lakers down three, does Kobe have yet ANOTHER bullet in the chamber? Three Raptors defenders are trying to stop the inbounds pass to Kobe, but he fights through the traffic.
He cuts back towards Steve Blake while sandwiched between two defenders.
Kobe creates the separation needed to have one last shot to force overtime.
Johnson leaves his feet and flies by Bryant. Rudy Gay goes up and challenges the shot, but Kobe still drains a miraculous three and ties the game with only 7.2 seconds remaining on the clock.
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OVERTIME! The teams exchange buckets, but the game starts to reach the boiling point from this play going forward. The Raptors repeatedly picked on Jodie Meeks on the block to great success. They do so again, but Dwight expects it and is ready to rotate.
Anderson gets ready to put up a shot over the smaller defender. Howard is already ready to jump up and stop the shot.
Get that mess outta' here. Dwight provides the help defense and gets the stop. World Peace leans back and my imagination fills in that he's going "daaaaaaaaaaaaamn".
Nash once again inbounds the ball, this time to Howard.
Howard provides a bit of a decoy as he rolls back to the rim. Nash has Aaron Gray on skates already as he drives to the three-point line.
He pops, locks the game up at 115, and drops the three. Nash was 4-for-6 on the night, including this huge shot in overtime. Mr. 50/40/90.
The Lakers need a stop now to start icing this game. Gray sets a high screen on Nash and Howard is going to follow tightly.
Nash fights under the screen but falls behind. Howard is there to pick up the ball-handler.
Much like we saw in New Orleans, he blows up the pick and roll and protects the paint. Gay is thrown the ball. Notice World Peace is in the paint looking to help.
MWP does a great job recovering and getting back to Gay on the perimeter.
Rudy drives on Metta but he stays with him and challenges the shot at the elbow, forcing another miss from Gay on the night. With the game tied and only 30 seconds remaining, it was a huge stop. A great job from both Howard and World Peace to cover a ton of ground and force a stop.
Under 20 seconds remaining in overtime and a chance to put the game away, it was once again Kobe time for the Lakers. Kobe drains the clock at mid-court, and eventually Gray is going to move to double Kobe with only 12 seconds remaining on the shot clock.
Mamba's gotta eat, and he chews through the not-so-fleet-of-footed Gray and drives to the paint.
No problem for Kobe to get around both defenders. Howard and Gay are linked up under the rim.
The help defender in the paint can only cheat so much as Nash is in the corner and had been hot on the night.
Kobe keeps on driving and goes up for the dunk. Dwight literally pulls on the back of Gay's jersey to try and keep him from going up to defend the shot.
Game-winning dunk from Kobe in his 17th season in the league? Yep. Still, there's 10 seconds left on the clock, and it's only a two-point differential. The Lakers need one more play.
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Here it is, the game's on the line on the defensive side of the ball now Lakeshow. Get it done. Rudy Gay will inbound the ball to Landry Fields.
Gay begins to cut to receive a handoff.
World Peace falls behind but fights over the top of Fields while Gay cuts to the weak side elbow.
Boom. World Peace is already there to defend. A great job once again recovering, as he has done often lately.
Metta stays with Gay the entire way and forces him to pick up the ball at the elbow.
Metta jumps up to contend the shot, which Gay had great elevation on, but it's no good. Lakers win in another wild game, and eclipse the .500 mark for the first time in 2013.
Yes, the Lakers shouldn't have been in this position to begin with against the
Reptars Raptors, at home no less. Yes, it took another absurd stretch from both Kobe and the Lakers to get the job done. To see Kobe hit those threes in the fourth quarter was surreal. By the game-tying three I was speechless, literally screaming at the top of my lungs without making a sound.
The defense, however, was also on point in key possessions. They struggled to match up with Toronto, specifically with Meeks on the floor, but both Howard and World Peace still made enough plays to help push the Lakers over the hump.
Another big-time game, another step closer to the brackets.
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