Kobe Bryant #24 points to the sky and Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles as they come back to beat the Golden State Warriors in Steve Nash's return to to team at Oracle Arena on December 22, 2012 in Oakland, California.
A couple days later, the Los Angeles Lakers’ win over the Golden State Warriors is something still worth being excited about.
After three quarters, the Lakers were down by 13 on the road to a team that had won 11 of the last 14 games. Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 21 points, but the leading scorer in the NBA had already taken 29 shots and made only 10. Bryant was frustrated with a lack of calls -- the player with the fourth-most free throw attempts in the NBA did not earn a single free throw on the night.
He did shoot one technical foul but that hardly counts.
Then, the fourth quarter came around, and something significant happened. The Lakers refused to lose.
Dwight Howard had collected four fouls and only played a little more than 12 minutes in the first three quarters. Howard played all 12 minutes of the fourth, and he was the defensive anchor the Lakers needed to get back into the game. Golden State only scored 21 points in the final period, and the Lakers finally achieved offensive balance.
Howard scored six points in the period. Three other Lakers scored seven points in the fourth quarter, and Nash was not one of them. Kobe still could not buy a whistle, but he did eventually find his shooting touch. That fourth quarter exemplified why Kobe never stops shooting: eventually, he gets hot when it matters.
Pau Gasol also contributed. He may not have taken a single shot down the stretch, but he led the team with three assists in the comeback quarter. Nash only had one assist, but his only bucket down the stretch was a massive three pointer to put the Lakers up briefly.
Then, the overtime period arrived, and this special team of superstars proved themselves. Nash, Bryant, Howard, Gasol, and Metta World Peace played the entire overtime period, save for the final nine seconds when Howard fouled out and Darius Morris stepped in to guard the three point line.
Kobe may have shot 16 of 41 on the night, but he was six of his 12 in the fourth quarter and overtime—winning time. Nash only had 12 points in the game, but his final two points put the Lakers up by three late in overtime and devastated the Warriors.
For all the heroics of Nash and Bryant, World Peace put in possibly the best all-around performance on the night. Putting up 20 points off the bench, World Peace personified the motto “It does not matter who starts the game; it matters who finishes it.” World Peace played 38 minutes, including all five minutes of overtime.
Prior to Tuesday, the Lakers squeezing into the eighth, seventh, or sixth seed by the end of the season seemed to be the consensus with most experts. Pundits would repeatedly utter that the Lakers would not want to play San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Memphis, or the Clippers in the first round.
After Saturday, this team flipped the script. No team wants to play these Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs.