The Los Angeles Lakers went into Portland Wednesday night and played a near-perfect fourth quarter to walk away with a 113-106 victory. Kobe Bryant had a memorable 47 points in 48 minutes, but the fourth quarter was Pau Gasol time.
Gasol, who was benched for the fourth quarter earlier this season, arguably overshadowed Bryant down the stretch. The Spaniard shot 5-6 for 11 points and passed off three assists in a vital final 12 minutes.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Blazers were up 90-88. Kobe had 39 points, three blocks, six rebounds, and three steals in 36 minutes. He kept the Lakers in the game and cancelled out Damian Lillard’s 34 points and eight rebounds.
Then, the fourth quarter came around.
Normally, the final 12 minutes are Mamba time. However, the Mamba had played all 36 minutes and carried the team offensively for three quarters, so he looked to Gasol to step up.
“He’s 2010 Pau,” Bryant said following Tuesday’s game, and Pau proved how correct Bryant was in that assessment on Wednesday night.
By his unbelievably high standards, Bryant had a quiet fourth quarter: eight points on 1-4 shooting, three assists, two rebounds, and one block shot. Almost by Bryant’s design, Gasol carried the Lakers to victory late in the game.
To start the fourth, Kobe recorded all three of his assists in the quarter with passes to Pau for easy layups. That was no accident, and Pau’s growing confidence resulted in a couple mid-range jump shots along the way.
With his shot falling, Gasol exploited the defense’s added focus on him by looking for his teammates. All three of Gasol’s assists came in the final six minutes of the game, and Gasol was responsible for both of Howard’s fourth quarter buckets—both alley oops.
As much as the first three quarters were incredible to watch one of the greatest scorers in NBA history go to work, the fourth quarter was where the Lakers played championship-level basketball. The defense picked up, and the Lakers held the Blazers to only 16 points on 6-23 shooting. Offensively, Bryant involved Gasol early, and Gasol involved Howard late. Between those big three, the Lakers scored 23 of their 25 fourth quarter points.
Nash or not, the Lakers have a big three that appears playoff ready. With three games to go, the Lakers’ big three has three home games against thee playoff teams to make the postseason.