Kobe Bryant turns back the clock to spark the Lakers to a Game 5 win over the Hornets
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Apr 27, 2011
LOS ANGELES »Kobe Bryant picked up his dribble with two hands and soared to the hoop, looking more like the cocky teenager who used to wear a No. 8 Lakers jersey than the weary veteran with five rings and perpetually gimpy ankles.
When Bryant moved the ball to his right hand and maliciously jammed it over Emeka Okafor, he electrified the Staples Center crowd and created a wave of momentum that Los Angeles rode all the way to the brink of the second round.
Bryant scored 19 points and threw down two stirring dunks on a sprained left ankle, and the Lakers beat the New Orleans Hornets 106-90 in Game 5 last night, taking a 3-2 series lead.
If Bryant's second-quarter dunk on Okafor turns out to be the Lakers' signature moment of a taxing first-round series that began with a Game 1 loss, Bryant acknowledges that's what he was trying to achieve.
"I just had a lane to the basket," said Bryant. "It looked like he was going to challenge me at the rim, and I decided to accept the challenge. ... It's a message for us that this was important. It's time to raise up and do what we've got to do. They're not saved dunks. I don't have much of those left."
YESTERDAY>> Bulls 116, Pacers 89; Bulls win series 4-1
>> Magic 101, Hawks 76; Hawks lead series 3-2
>> Lakers 106, Hornets 90; Lakers lead series 3-2
TODAY>> Philadelphia at Miami, 1 p.m. (TNT); Heat lead 3-1
>> Memphis at San Antonio, 2:30 p.m. (NBATV); Grizzlies lead 3-1
>> Denver at Oklahoma City, 3:30 p.m. (TNT); Thunder lead 3-1
TOMORROW>> Orlando at Atlanta, 1:30 p.m. (NBATV)
>> L.A. Lakers at New Orleans, 2 p.m. (TNT)
>> Dallas at Portland, 4:30 p.m. (TNT); Mavericks lead 3-2
Bryant left New Orleans on crutches two days earlier after getting hurt late in Game 4, but he refused an MRI exam or extensive treatment when he got home. Postseason injuries are nothing new for the two-time NBA Finals MVP, who has persevered through a slew of them during 67 playoff games in the previous three years.
"That's what he does," said Monty Williams, the Hornets' frustrated coach. "All this talk about his ankle. Did it look like his ankle was hurting? OK then."
Game 6 is tomorrow in New Orleans.
Andrew Bynum had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Pau Gasol added 16 points as the two-time defending NBA champions roared back from a slow start.
And though he got off to a slow start and played less than 29 minutes, Bryant erased any worries about his fitness with that poster-ready dunk over Okafor.
"That's for show," Okafor said of Bryant's injuries. "You know Kobe is going to play no matter what."
Bryant added another crowd-riling slam with his left hand in the third quarter while Los Angeles jumped to an 11-point lead, and he headed back to the locker room early to get more treatment when he came out for good in the final minutes.
Trevor Ariza scored 22 points, Marco Belinelli added 21, and Chris Paul had 20 points and 12 assists for the seventh-seeded Hornets, who have lost three of four since their series-opening victory. Ariza hit five 3-pointers, but managed just six points in the second half as the Lakers took control of the game and perhaps the series.